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THE PUBLIC LIBRARY 
OF THE CITY OF BOSTON 
LONGFELLOW MEMORIAL 
COLLECTION-gM^MaXa 
FROM THE FUND GIVEN BY 
VICTORINE THOMAS ARTZ 
1890 ,, 



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OUR VILLAGE. 



LONDON: 
RINTEDBYR GILBERT, 

ST. John's square. 



OUR VILLAGE: 



SKETCHES 



OF 



RURAL CHARACTER AND SCENERY. 



BY 



MARY RUSSELL MITFORD, 

AUTHOR OF JULIANj A TRAGEDY. 



LONDON : 

G. AND W. B. WHITTAKER, 

AVE-MARIA-LANE. 
1824. 



PREFACE. 



The following pages contain an attempt to deli- 
neate country scenery and country manners, as 
tliey exist in a small village in the south of Eng- 
land. The writer may at least claim the merit of 
a hearty love of her subject, and of that local and 
personal familiarity, which only a long residence 
in one neighbourhood could have enabled her to 
attain. Her descriptions have always been written 
on the spot and at the moment, and in nearly every 
instance with the closest and most resolute fidelity 
to the place and the people. If she be accused of 
having given a brighter aspect to her villagers than 
is usually met with in books, she cannot help it, and 
would not if she could. She has painted, as they 
appeared to her, their little frailties and their many 
virtues, under an intense and thankful conviction, 
jthat in every condition of life goodness and hap- 
piness may be found by those who seek them, and. 



VI - ■ PREFACE. 

never more surely than in the fresh air, the shade, 
and the sunshine of nature. 

A few sketches of character, in a somewhat 
higher rank, have been introduced; it is right 
also to add, that the greater part both of them and 
of the strictly rural papers have already appeared 
in a periodical publication. 



CONTENTS, 



PAGE 

Our Village • • • e * . * s 9 , | 

Hannah ..•..•• •••••• 17 

Walks in the Country. Frost and Thaw .... 27 
Modern Antiques .«..«»«»..» e .«,.,.,,,,, , $q 

A Great Farm-House • 48 

Lucy ...,.«»*.», , 58 

Walks in the Country, The First Primrose . . 7$ 

Bramley Maying • • • ♦ 81 

Cousin Mary *««.*. .»..e»....i.'.*««-<»a«^»» 91 

Walks in the Country. Violeting ,,...«•••» 100 

The Talking- Lady .....».»*......»...« « lOT 

Ellen ...«»....»*.....•...«. 9. » 116 

Walks in the Country, The Cowslip-Bail » « , . 13S 

A Country Cricket-Match »,»,..*,»..,,««. 146 

Tom Cordiry t .....*..«««.»*».».». ^ « .9,, . 164 



Vm CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

An Old Bachelor .,....,.,..,...... 177 

A Village Beau * «« e ..,..,.«..*«* , 188 

Walks in the Country. The Hard Summer . . 199 

The Talking Gentleman ...«».«•♦«..» 213 

Mrs. Mosse •«»»»«»»«««»e«»a«««<»»»»»««»»«» 220 

Walks in the Country. Nutting • • • • • • • 241 

Aunt Martha 250 

Walks in the Country. The Visit .,....»... 255 
A Parting Glance at our Village .......... 273 



OUR VILLAGE. 



Of all situations for a constant residence, that which 
appears to me most delightful is a little village far in 
the country ; a small neighbourhood, not of fine man* 
sions finely peopled, but of cottages and cottage-like 
houses, " messuages or tenements," as a friend of mine 
calls such ignoble and non-descript dwellings, with in- 
habitants whose faces are as familiar to us as the flowers 
in our garden ; a little world of our own, close-packed 
and insulated like ants in an ant-hill, or bees in a hive, 
or sheep in a fold, or nuns in a convent, or sailors in a 
ship ; where we know every one, are known to every 
one, interested in every one, and authorised to hope 
that every one feels an interest in us. How pleasant it 
is to slide into these fine-hearted feelings from the 
kindly and unconscious influence of habit, and to learn 
to know and to love the people about us, with all their 
peculiarities, just as we learn to know and to love the 
nooks and turns of the shady lanes and sunny commons 
that we pass every day. Even in books I like a con* 



2 OUR VILLAGE. 

fined locality, and so do th^ critics when they talk of 
the unities. Nothing is so tiresome as to be whirled 
half over Europe at the chariot-wheels of a hero, to go 
to sleep at Vienna, and awaken at Madrid ; it pro- 
duces a real fatigue, a weariness of spirit. On the 
other hand, nothing is so delightful as to sit down in 
a country village in one of Miss Austen's delicious no- 
vels, quite sure before we leave it to become intimate 
with every spot and every person it contains ; or to 
ramble with Mr. White * over his own parish of Sel- 
borne, and form a friendship with the fields and cop- 
pices, as well as with the birds, mice, and squirrels, 
who inhabit them ; or to sail with Robinson Crusoe to 
his island, and live there with him and his goats and 
his man Friday ; — how much we dread any new comers, 
any fresh importation of savage or sailor ! we never 
sympathise for a moment in our hero's want of com- 
pany, and are quite grieved when he gets away ; — or to 
be shipwrecked with Ferdinand on that other lovelier 
island-^the island of Prospero, and Miranda, and Ca- 
liban, and Ariel, and nobody else, none of Dryden's 
exotic inventions ; — that is best of all. And a small 
neighbourhood is as good in sober waking reality as in 
poetry or prose ; a village neighbourhood, such as this 

* White's Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne ; one of 
the most fascinating books ever written. I wonder that no naturalist 
has adopted the same plan. 



OITR VILLAGE, S 

Berkshire hamlet in which I write, a long, straggling, 
winding street at the bottom of a fine eminence, with a 
road through it, always abounding in carts, horsemen^ 
and carriages^ and lately enlivened by a stage-coach 

from B to S , which passed through about ten 

days ago, and will I suppose return some time or other. 
There are coaches of all varieties now~a-days ; perhaps 
this may be intended for a monthly diligence, or a 
fortnightly fly. Will you walk with me through our 
village, courteous reader? The journey is not long. 
We will begin at the lower end, and proceed up th6 
hill. 

The tidy square red cottage on the right handj with 
the long well-stocked garden by the side of the roadj 
belongs to a retired publican from a neighbouring 
town ; a substantial person with a comely wife ; one 
who piques himself on independence and idleness, talks 
politics, reads newspapers, hates the minister, and cries 
out for reform. He introduced into our peaceful vici- 
nage the rebellious innovation of an illumination on the 
queen's acquittal. Remonstrance and persuasion were 
in vain ; he talked of liberty and broken windows — so 
we all lighted up. Oh! how he shone that night with 
candles and laurel, and white bows, and gold paper, 
and a transparency (originally designed for a pocket- 
handkerchief) with a flaming portrait of Her Majesty, 
hatted and feathered, in red ochre* He had no rival in 

B g 



4- OUR VILLAGE. 

the village, that we all acknowledged ; the veriy bon- 
fire was less splendid ; the little boys reserved their best 
crackers to be expended in his honour, and he gave 
them full sixpence more than any one else. He would 
like an illumination once a month ; for it must not be 
concealed that, in spite of gardening, of newspaper 
reading, of jaunting about in his little cart, and fre- 
quenting both church and meeting, our worthy neigh- 
bour begins to feel the weariness of idleness. He hangs 
over his gate, and tries to entice passengers to stop and 
chat ; he volunteers little jobs all round, smokes cherry- 
trees to cure the blight, and traces and blows up all the 
wasp-nests in the parish. I have seen a great many in 
our garden to-day, and shall enchant him with the in- 
telligence. He even assists his wife in her sweepings 
and dustings. Poor man ! he is a very respectable 
person, and wotild be a very happy one, if he would 
add a little employment to his dignity. It would be the 
salt of life to him. 

Next to his house, though parted from it by another 
long garden with a yew arbour at the end, is the pretty 
dwelling of the shoemaker, a pale, sickly-looking, 
black-haired man, the very model of sober industry. 
There he sits in his little shop from early morning till 
late at night. An earthquake would hardly stir him : 
the illumination did not. He stuck immoveably to his 
la&tj from the first gradual lighting up, through the 



OUR VILLAGE. O 

long blaze and the gradual decay, till his large solitary 
candle was the only light in the place. One cannot 
conceive any thing more perfect than the contempt 
which the man of transparencies and the man of shoes 
must have felt for each other on that evening. There 
was at least as much vanity in the sturdy industry as 
in the strenuous idleness, for our shoemaker is a man 
of substance : he employs three journeymen, two lame, 
and one a dwarf, so that his shop looks like an hospi- 
tal ; he has purchased the lease of his commodious 
dwelling, some even say that he has bought it out and 
out ; and he has only one pretty daughter, a light;, de- 
licate, fair-haired girl of fourteen, the champion, pro- 
tectressj and playfellow of every brat under three years 
old, whom she jumps, dances, dandles, and feeds all 
day long. She is a very attractive person, is that child- 
loving girl. I have never seen any one in her station 
who possessed so thoroughly that undefinable charm, 
the lady-look. See her on a Sunday in her simplicity 
and her white frock, and she might pass for an earl's 
daughter. She likes flowers, too, and has a profusion 
of white stocks under her window, as pure and delicate 
as herself. 

The first house on the opposite side of the way is the 
blacksmith's ; a gloomy dwelling, where the sun never 
seems to shine ; dark and smoky within and without, 
like a forge. The blacksmith is a high officer in our 



6 OUR VILLAGE. 

little State, nothing less than a constable; but, alas! 
alas! when tumults arise, and the constable is called 
for, he will commonly be found in the thickest of the 
fray. Lucky would it be for his wife and her eight 
children if there were no public-house in the land : an 
inveterate inclination to enter those bewitching doors is 
Mr. Constable's only fault. 

Next to this official dwelling is a spruce brick tene- 
ment, red, high, and narrow, boasting one above ano- 
ther three sash-windows, the only sash-windows in the 
village, with a clematis on one side and a rose on the 
other, tall and narrow like itself. That slender man- 
sion has a fine genteel look. The little parlour seems 
made for Hogarth's old maid and her stunted footboy ; 
for tea and card-parties,—- -it would just hold one table ; 
for the rustle of faded silks, and the splendour of old 
China ; for the delight of four by honours, and a little- 
snug quiet scandal between the deals ; for affected gen- 
tility and real starvation. This should have been its 
destiny ; but fate has been unpropitious : it belongs to 
a plump, merry, bustling dame, with four fat, rosy, 
noisy children, the very essence of vulgarity and plenty. 

Then comes the village shop, like other village shops, 
multifarious as a bazaar ; a repository for bread, shoes, 
tea, cheese, tape, ribands, and bacon ; for every thing, 
in short, except the one particular thing which you 
happen to want at the moment, and will be sure not to 



OUR VILLAGE. 7 

find. The people are civil and thriving, and frugal 
vy^ithal ; they have let the upper part of their house to 
two young women (one of them is a pretty blue-eyed 
girl) who teach little children their ABC, and make 
caps and gowns for their mamas, — parcel schoolmis- 
tress, parcel mantua-maker. I believe they find adorn- 
ing the body a more profitable vocation than adorning 
the mind. 

Divided from the shop by a narrow yard, and oppo- 
site the shoemaker's, is a habitation of whose inmates I 
shall say nothing. A cottage — no — a miniature house, 
. with many additions, little odds and ends of places, 
pantries, and what not ; all angles, and of a charming 
in-and-outness ; a little bricked court before one half, 
and a little flower-yard before the other ; the walls, 
old and weather-stained, covered with hollyhocksj 
roses, honeysuckles, and a great apricot-tree; the 
casements full of geraniums ; (ah, there is our superb 
white cat peeping out from amongst them !) the closets 
(our landlord has the assurance to call them rooms) full 
of contrivances and corner-cupboards ; and the little 
garden behind full of common flowers, tulips, pinks, 
larkspurs, pionies, stocks, and carnations, with an ar- 
bour of privet, not unlike a sentry-box, where one 
lives in a delicious green light, and looks out on the 
gayest of all gay flower-beds. That house was built on 
purpose to show in what an exceedingly small compass 



8 OUR VILLAGE. 

comfort may be packed. Well, I will loiter there no 
longer. 

The next tenement is a place of importance, the 
Rose inn ; a white-washed building, retired from the 
road behind its fine swinging sign, with a little bow- 
window room coming out on one side, and forming, 
with our stable on the other, a sort of open square, 
which is the constant resort of carts, waggons, and re- 
turn chaises. There are two carts there now, and mine 
host is serving them with beer in his eternal red waist- 
coat. He is a thriving man, and a portly, as his waist- 
coat attests, which has been twice let out within this 
twelvemonth. Our landlord has a stirring wife, a 
hopeful son, and a daughter, the belle of the village ; 
not so pretty as the fair nymph of the shoe-shop, and 
far less elegant, but ten times as fine ; all curlpapers 
in the morning, like a porcupine, all curls in the after- 
noon, like a poodle, with more flounces than curl- 
papers, and more lovers than curls. Miss Phoebe is 
fitter for town than country ; and, to do her justice, she 
has a consciousness of that fitness, and turns her steps 

town- ward as often as she can. She is gone to B 

to-day with her last and principal lover, a recruiting Ser- 
jeant — a man as tall as Serjeant Kite, and as impudent. 
Some day or other he will carry off Miss Phoebe. 

In a line with the bow- window room is a low garden- 
wall, belonging to a house under repair : — the white 



OUR VILLAGE. 9 

house opposite the collar-maker's shop, with four lime- 
trees before it, and a waggon-load of bricks at the 
door. That house is the plaything of a wealthy, well- 
meaning, whimsical person, who lives about a mile off. 
He has a passion for brick and mortar, and, being too 
wise to meddle with his own residence, diverts himself 
with altering and re- altering, improving and re-improv- 
ing, doing and undoing here. It is a perfect Penelope's 
web. Carpenters and bricklayers have been at work 
for these eighteen months, and yet I sometimes stand 
and wonder whether any thing has really been done. 
One exploit in last June was, however, by no means 
equivocal. Our good neighbour fancied that the limes 
shaded the rooms, and made them dark, (there was not 
a creature in the house but the workmen,) so he had all 
the leaves stripped from every tree. There they stood, 
poor miserable skeletons, as bare as Christmas under 
the glowing midsummer sun. Nature revenged herself 
in her own sweet and gracious manner; fresh leaves 
sprang out, and at nearly Christmas the foliage was as 
brilliant as when the outrage was committed. 

Next door lives a carpenter, " famed ten miles 
raund, and worthy all his fame ;" few cabinet-makers 
surpass him, with his excellent wife, and their little 
daughter Lizzy, the plaything and queen of the village, 
.a child three years old according to the register, but six 
in size and strength and intellect, in power and in self- 



10 OUR VILLAGE. 

will. She manages every body in the place, her school- 
mistress included ; turns the wheeler's children out of 
their own little cart, and makes them draw her ; seduces 
cakes and lollypops from the very shop window ; makes 
the lazy carry her, the silent talk to her, the grave romp 
with her ; does any thing she pleases ; is absolutely ir- 
resistible. Her chief attraction lies in her exceeding 
power of loving, and her firm reliance on the love and 
indulgence of others. How impossible it would be to 
disappoint the dear little girl when she runs to meet 
you, slides her pretty hand into yours, looks up gladly 
in your face, and says, " Come !" You must go : you 
cannot help it. Another part of the charm is her sin- 
gular beauty. Together with a good deal of the cha* 
racter of Napoleon, she has something of his square, 
sturdy, upright form, with the finest limbs in the 
world, a complexion purely English, a round laughing 
face, sunburnt and rosy, large merry blue eyes, curl- 
ing brown hair, and a wonderful play of countenance. 
She has the imperial attitudes too, and loves to stand 
with her hands behind her, or folded over her bosom ; 
and sometimes, v^^hen she has a little touch of shyness, 
she clasps them together on the top of her head, press- 
ing down her shining curls, and looking so exquisitely 
pretty ! Yes, Lizzy is queen of the village ! She has 
but one rival in her dominions, a certain white grey- 
hound called May-flower, much her friend, who re- 



OUR VILLAGE. 1 1 

sembles her in beauty and strength, in playfulness, and 
almost in sagacity, and reigns over the animal world as 
she over the human. They are both coming with me, 
Lizzy and Lizzy's " pretty May." We are now at the 
end of the street ; a cross lane, a rope-walk, shaded 
with limes and oaks, and a cool clear pond overhung 
with elms, lead us to the bottom of the hill. There is 
still one house round the corner, ending in a picturesque 
wheeler's shop. The dwelling-house is more ambitious. 
Look at the fine flowered window-blinds, the green door 
with the brass knocker, and the somewhat prim but 
very civil person, who is sending oK a labouring man 
with sirs and curtsies enough for a prince of the blood. 
Those are the curate's lodgings — apartments his land- 
lady would call them : he lives with his own family four 
miles off, but once or twice a week he comes to his neat 
little parlour to write sermons, to marry, or to bury, as 
the case may require. Never were better or kinder 
people than his host and hostess ; and there is a fine 
reflection of clerical importance about them, since their 
connexion with the Church, which is quite edifying — a 
decorum, a gravity, a solemn politeness. Oh, to see 
the worthy wheeler carry the gown after his lodger on 
a Sunday, nicely pinned up in his wife's best handker- 
chief! — or to hear him rebuke a squalling child or a 
squabbling woman ! The curate is nothing to him. He 
is fit to be perpetual churchwarden. 



12 OUU VILLAGE. 

We must now cross the lane into the shady rope-walk. 
That pretty white cottage opposite, which stands strag- 
gling at the end of the village in a garden full of flowers, 
belongs to our mason, the shortest of men, and his 
handsome, tall wife : he a dwarf, with the voice of a 
giant ; one starts when he begins to talk as if he were 
shouting through a speaking trumpet ; she, the sister, 
daughter, and grand- daughter, of a long line of gar- 
deners, and no contemptible one herself. It is very 
magnanimous in me not to hate her ; for she beats me 
in my own way, in chrysanthemums, and dahlias, and 
the like gauds. Her plants are sure to live ; mine have 
a sad trick of dying, perhaps because I love them, " pot 
wisely, but too well," and kill them with over-kindness. 
Half-way up the hill is another detached cottage, the 
residence of an officer and his beautiful family. That 
eldest boy, who is hanging over the gate, and looking 
with such intense childish ' admiration at my Lizzy, 
might be a model for a Cupid. 

How pleasantly the road winds up the hill, with its 
broad green borders and hedge-rows so thickly tim- 
bered ! How finely the evening sun falls on that sandy 
excavated bank, and touches the farm-house on the top 
of the eminence ! and how clearly defined and relieved 
is the figure of the man who is just coming down ! It is 
poor John Evans, the gardener — an excellent gardener 
till about ten years ago, when he lost his wife, and became 



OUR VILLAGE. 1 



o 



insane. He was sent to St. Luke's, and dismissed as 
cured ; but his power was gone and his strength ; he 
could no longer manage a garden, nor submit to the 
restraint, nor encounter the fatigue of regular employ- 
ment ; so he retreated to the workhouse, the pensioner 
and factotum of the village, amongst whom he divides 
his services. His mind often wanders, intent on some 
fantastic and impracticable plan, and lost to present ob- 
jects ; but he is perfectly harmless, and full of a child- 
like simplicity, a smiling contentedness, a most touch- 
ing gratitude. Every one is kind to John Evans, for 
there is that about him which must be loved ; and his 
unprotectedness, his utter defencelessness, have an ir- 
resistible claim on every better feeling. I know nobody 
who inspires so deep and tender a pity ; he improves all 
around him. He is useful, too, to the extent of his 
little power; will do any thing, but loves gardening 
best, and still piques himself on his old arts of pruning 
fruit-trees, and raising cucumbers. He is the happiest 
of men just now, for he has the management of a melon 
bed — a melon bed ! — fie ! What a grand pompous name 
was that for three melon plants under a hand-light! 
John Evans is sure that they will succeed. We shall 
see : as the chancellor said, " I doubt." 

We are now on the very brow of the eminence, close 
to the Hill-house and its beautiful garden. On the 
outer edge of the paling, hanging over the bank that 



14 OUR VILLAGE. 

skirts the road, is an old tliorn — such a thorn \ The 
long sprays covered with snowy blossoms, so graceful^ 
so elegant, so lightsome, and yet so rich ! There only 
wants a pool under the thorn to give a still lovelier re-* 
flection, quivering and trembling, like a tuft of feathers, 
whiter and greener than the life, and more prettily 
mixed with the bright blue sky. There should indeed 
be a pool ; but on the dark grass-plat, under the high 
bank, which is crowned by that magnificent plume, there 
is something that does almost as well, — Lizzy and May- 
flower in the midst of a game at romps, " making a 
sun-shine in the shady place ;" Lizzy rolling, laughing, 
clapping her hands, and glowing like a rose; May- 
flower playing about her like summer lightning, dazzling 
the eyes with her sudden turns, her leaps, her bounds, 
her attacks and her escapes. She darts round the 
lovely little girl, with the same momentary touch that 
the swallow skims over the water, and has exactly the 
same power of flight, the same matchless ease and 
strength and grace. What a pretty picture they would 
make ; what a pretty foreground they do make to the 
real landscape ! The road winding down the hill with a 
slight bend, like that in the High-street at Oxford ; a 
waggon slowly ascending, and a horseman cantering up 
at full speed — (ah ! Lizzy, May-flower will certainly 
desert you to have a gambol with that blood-horse !) 
half-way down, just at the turn, the red cottage of the 



OUR VILLAGE. 15 

lieutenant, covered with vines, the very image of com- 
fort and content ; farther down, on the opposite side^ 
the small white dwelling of the little mason ; then the 
limes and the rope-walk ; then the village street, peep- 
ing through the trees, whose clustering tops hide all but 
the chimneys and various roofs of the houses, and here 
and there some angle of a wall : farther on, the elegant 

town of B , with its fine old church-towers and 

spires ; the whole view shut in by a range of chalky 
hills ; and over every part of the picture trees, so pro- 
fusely scattered, that it appears like a woodland scene, 
with glades and villages intermixed. The trees are of 
all kinds and all hues, chiefly the finely-shaped elm, of 
so deep and bright a green, the tips of whose high outer 
branches drop down with such a crisp and garland-like 
richness, and the oak, whose stately form is just now 
so splendidly adorned by the sunny colouring of the 
young leaves. Turning again up the hill, we find our- 
selves on that peculiar charm of English scenery, a 
green common, divided by the road ; the right side 
fringed by hedge-rows and trees, with cottages and 
farm-houses irregularly placed, and terminated bv a 
double avenue of noble oaks ; the left, prettier still, 
dappled by bright pools of water, and islands of cot- 
tages and cottage-gardens, and sinking gradually down 
to corn-fields and meadows, and an old farm-house, 
with pointed roofs and clustered chimneys, looking out 



16 OUR VILLAGE. 

from its blooming orchard, and backed by woody hills. 
The common is itself the prettiest part of the prospect ; 
half covered with low furze, whose golden blossoms re- 
flect so intensely the last beams of the setting sun, and 
alive with cows and sheep, and two sets of cricketers : 
one of young men, surrounded with spectators, some 
standing, some sitting, some stretched on the grass, all 
taking a delighted interest in the game ; the other, a 
merry groupe of little boys, at humble distance, for 
whom even cricket is scarcely lively enough, shouting, 
leaping, and enjoying themselves to their hearts' con- 
tent. But cricketers and country boys are too im- 
portant persons in our village to be talked of merely as 
figures in the landscape. They deserve an individual 
introduction — an essay to themselves — and they shall 
have it. No fear of forgetting the good-humoured 
faces that meet us in our walks every day. 



HANNAH. 



The prettiest cottage on our village-green is the little 
dwelling of Dame Wilson. It stands in a corner of the 
common, where the hedgerows go curving off into a 
sort of bay round a clear bright pond, the earliest haunt 
of the swallows. A deep, woody green lane, such as 
Hobbima or Ruysdael might have painted, a lane that 
hints of nightingales, forms one boundary of the gar- 
den, and a sloping meadow the other ; whilst the cot- 
tage itself, a low thatched irregular building, backed by 
a blooming orchard, and covered with honeysuckle and 
jessamine, looks like the chosen abode of snugness and 
comfort. And so it is. 

Dame Wilson was a respected servant in a most re- 
spectable family, where she passed all the early part of 
her life, and which she quitted only on her marriage 
with a man of character and industry, and of that pe- 
culiar universality of genius which forms, what is called 
an country phrase, a handy fellow. He could do any 
.«ort of work; was thatcher, carpenter, bricklayer, 



18 HANNAH. 

painter, gardener, game-keeper, " every thing by 
turns, and nothing long." No job came amiss to him. 
He killed pigs, mended shoes, cleaned clocks, doctored 
cows, dogs, and horses, and even went as far as bleed- 
ing and drawing teeth in his experiments on the human 
subject. In addition to these multifarious talents, he 
was ready, obliging, and unfearing ; jovial withal, and 
fond of good-fellowship ; and endowed with a prompt- 
ness of resource which made him the general adviser of 
the stupid, the puzzled, and the timid. He was uni- 
versally admitted to be the cleverest man in the parish ; 
and his death, which happened about ten years ago, in 
consequence of standing in the water, drawing a pond 
for one neighbour, at a time when he was over-heated 
by loading hay for another, made quite a gap in our 
village commonwealth. John Wilson had no rival, and 
has had no successor ; — for the Robert Ellis, whom 
pertaiii youngsters would fain exalt to a co-partnery of 
fame, is simply nobody— a bell-ringer, a ballad-singer 
— a troller of profane catches — a fiddler — a bruiser— 
a loUer on alehouse benches — a teller of good stories — 
a mimic— a poet ! — What is all this to compare with the 
solid parts of John Wilson ? Whose clock hath Robert 
Ellis, cleaned ? — whose windows hath he mended ? — 
whose dog hath he broken ? — whose pigs hath he rung ? 
—whose pond hath he fished ?^ — whose hay hath he 
saved ?—" whose cow hath he cured ? — whose calf hath 

1 



HANNAH. 19 

he killed ?— whose teeth hath he drawn ? — whom hath 
he bled ? Tell me that, irreverent whipsters ! No ! 
John Wilson is not to be replaced. He was missed by 
the whole parish ; and most of all he was missed at 
home. His excellent wife was left the sole guardian 
and protector of two fatherless girls ; one an infant at 
her knee, the other a pretty handy lass about nine years 
old. Cast thus upon the world, there must have been 
much to endure, much to suffer ; but it was borne with 
a smiling patience, a hopeful cheeriness of spirit, and a 
decent pride, which seemed to command success as well 
as respect in their struggle for independence. Without 
assistance of any sort, by needle-work, by washing and 
mending lace and fine linen, and other skilful and pro- 
fitable labours, and by the produce of her orchard and 
poultry. Dame Wilson contrived to maintain herself and 
her children in their old comfortable home. There was 
no visible change ; she and the little girls were as neat 
as ever ; the house had still within and without the same 
sunshiny cleanliness, and the garden was still famous 
over all other gardens for its cloves, and stocks, and 
double wall-flowers. But the sweetest flower of the 
garden, the joy ^nd pride of her mother's heart, was 
her daughter Hannah. Well might she be proud of 
her ! At sixteen Hannah Wilson was, beyond a doubt, 
the prettiest girl in the village, and the best. Her 
beauty was quite in a different style from the common 

c 2 



^ HANNAH. 

country rosebud— far more choice and rare. Its chief 
characteristic was modesty. A light youthful figure, 
exquisitely graceful and rapid in all its movements ; 
springy, elastic, and buoyant as a bird, and almost as 
shy ; a fair innocent face, with downcast blue eyes, and 
smiles and blushes coming and going almost with her 
thoughts ; a low soft voice, sweet even in its monosyl- 
lables ; a dress remarkable for neatness and propriety, 
and borrowing from her delicate beauty an air of supe- 
riority not its own ;— such was the outward woman of 
Hannah. Her mind was very like her person ; modest, 
graceful, gentle, affectionate, grateful, and generous 
above all. The generosity of the poor is always a very 
real and fine thing : they give what they want ; and 
Hannah was of all poor people the most generous. She 
loved to give; it was her pleasure, her luxury. Rosy- 
cheeked apples, plums with the bloom on them, nose- 
gays of cloves and blossomed myrtle ; these were offer- 
ings which Hannah delighted to bring to those whom 
she loved, or those who had shown her kindness ; 
whilst to others, who needed other attentions than fruit 
and flowers, she would give her time, her assistance, 
her skill ; for Hannah inherited her mother's dexterity 
in feminine employments, with something of her father's 
versatile power. Besides being an excellent laundress, 
khe was accomplished in all the arts of the needle, mil- 
linery, dress-making, and plain work ; a capital cutter- 



HANNAH. ^1 

out, an incomparable mender, and endowed with a gift 
of altering, which made old things better than new. 
She had no rival at a rifacimento, as half the turned 
gowns on the common can witness. As a dairy-woman, 
and a rearer of pigs and poultry, she was equally suc- 
cessful : none of her ducks and turkeys ever died of 
neglect or carelessness, or, to use the phrase of the 
poultry-yard on such occasions, of " ill luck." Han- 
nah's fowls never dreamed of sliding out of the world 
in such an ignoble way ; they all lived to be killed, to 
make a noise at their deaths, as chickens should do. 
She was also a famous *' scholar ;" kept accounts, wrote 
l3ills, read letters, and answered them ; was a trusty 
accomptant, and a safe confidante. There was no end 
to Hannah's usefulness or Hannah's kindness ; and her 
prudence was equal to either. Except to be kind or 
useful, she never left her home ; attended no fairs, or 
revels, or Mayings ; went no where but to church ; and 
seldom made a nearer approach to rustic revelry than 
by standing at her own garden-gate on a Sunday even- 
ing, with her little sister in her hand, to look at the 
lads and lasses on the green. In short, our village 
beauty had fairly reached her twentieth year without 
a sweetheart, without the slightest suspicion of her 
having ever written a love-letter on her own account ; 
when, all on a sudden, appearances changed. She was 
missing at the " accustomed gate ;" and one had seen a. 



2^ HANNAH. 

young man go into Dame Wilson's ; and another had 
descried a trim elastic figure walking, not unaccom- 
panied, down the shady lane. Matters were quite clear. 
Hannah had gotten a lover ; and, when poor little Su- 
san, who, deserted by her sister, ventured to peep ra- 
ther nearer at the gay groupe, was laughingly ques- 
tioned on the subject, the hesitating No, and the half 
Yes, of the smiling child, were equally conclusive. 

Since the new marriage act*, we, who belong to 
country magistrates, have gained a priority over the 
rest of the parish in matrimonial news. We (the pri- 
vileged) see on a work-day the names which the sab- 
bath announces to the generality. Many a blushing 
awkward pair hath our little lame clerk (a sorry Cupid!) 
ushered in between dark and light to stammer and 
hacker, to bow and curtsy, to sign or make a mark, as 
it pleases Heaven. One Saturday, at the usual hour, 
the limping clerk made his appearance; and, walking 
through our little hall^ I saw a fine athletic young man, 
the very image of health and vigour, mental and bodily, 
holding the hand of a young woman, who, with her head 
half buried in a geranium in the window, was turning 
bashfully'away, listening, and yet not seeming to listen, 
to his tender whispers. The shrinking grace of that 

* It is necessary to observe that this story was written during the 
short operation of that curious experiment in legislation. 



liANNAH. ^S 

bending figure was not to be mistaken. '* Hannah !" 
and she went aside with me, and a rapid series of ques- 
tions and answers conveyed the story of the courtship. 
" William was," said Hannah, " a journeyman hatter 
in B. He had walked over one Sunday evening to see 
the cricketing, and then he came again. Her mother 
liked him. Every body liked her William — ^and she 
had promised-— she was going — was it wrong ?" — ** Oh 
no ! — and where are you to live ?" — " William has got a 
room in B. He works for Mr. Smith, the rich hatter 
in the market-place, and Mr. Smith speaks of him — 
oh, so well ! But William will not tell me where our 
room is. I suppose in some narrow street or lane, 
which he is afraid I shall not like, as our common is so 
pleasant. He little thinks — any where" — She stopped 
suddenly ; but her blush and her clasped hands finished 
the sentence, " any where with him !" — " And when is 
the happy day ?" — " On Monday fortnight, Madam," 
said the bridegroom elect, advancing with the little 
clerk to summon Hannah to the parlour, " the earliest 
day possible." He drew her arm through his, and we 
parted . 

The Monday fortnight was a glorious morning ; one 
of those rare November days when the sky and the air 
are soft and bright as in April. " What a beautiful day 
for Hannah !" was the first exclamation of the break- 
fast-table. " Did she tell you where they should dine?' 



24 HANNAH. 

— " No, Ma'am ; I forgot to ask." — " I can tell you/'' 
said the master of the h^use, with somewhat of good- 
humoured importance in his air, somewhat of the look 
of a man who, having kept a secret as long as it was 
necessary, is not sorry to get rid of the burthen. " I 
can tell you: in London." — " In London!" — " Yes. 
Your little favourite has been in high luck. She has 
married the only son of one of the best and richest men 
in B., Mr. Smith, the great hatter. It is quite a ro- 
mance," continued he : ■' William Smith walked over 
one Sunday evening to see a match at cricket. He saw 
our pretty Hannah, and forgot to look at the cricketers. 
After having gazed his fill, he approached to address 
her, and the little damsel was off like a bird. William 
did not like her the less for that, and thought of her the 
more. He came again, and again ; and at last con- 
trived to tame this wild dove, and even to get the entree 
af the cottage. Hearing Hannah talk, is not the way 
to fall out of love with her. So William, at last finding 
his case serious, laid the matter before his father, and 
requested his consent to the marriage. Mr. Smith was 
at first a little startled ; but William is an only son, and 
an excellent son ; and, after talking with me, and look- 
ing at Hannah, (I believe her sweet face was the more 
eloquent advocate of the two,) he relented ; and having 
a spice of his son's romance, finding that he had not 
mentioned his situation in life, he made a point of its 



HANNAH. 25 

being kept secret till the wedding-day. We have ma- 
naged the business of settlements ; and William, hav- 
ing discovered that his fair bride has some curiosity to 
see London, (a curiosity, by the bye, which I suspect 
she owes to you or poor Lucy,) intends taking her thi- 
ther for a fortnight. He will then bring her home to 
one of the best houses in B., a fine garden, fine furni- 
ture, fine clothes, fine servants, and more money than 
she will know what to do with. Really the surprise of 
Lord E.'s farmer's daughter, when, thinking she had 
married his steward, he brought her to Burleigh, and 
installed her as its mistress, could hardly have been 
greater. I hope the shock will not kill Hannah though, 
as is said to have been the case with that poor lady."— 
*' Oh no ! Hannah loves her husband too well. Any 
where with him !" 

And I was right. Hannah has survived the shock. 
She is returned to B., and I have been to call on her. 
I never saw any thing so delicate and bride-like as she 
looked in her white gown and her lace mob, in a room 
light and simple, and tasteful and elegant, with nothing 
fine except some beautiful green-house plants. Her 
reception was a charming mixture of sweetness and mo- 
desty, a little more respectful than usual, and far more 
shamefaced ! Poor thing ! her cheeks must have pained 
her ! But this was the only difference. In every thing 
else she is still the same Hannah, and has lost none of 



^6 HANNAH. 

her old habits of kindness and gratitude. She was 
making a handsome matronly cap, evidently for her 
mother, and spoke, even with tears, of her new father's 
goodness to her and to Susan. She would fetch the 
cake and wine herself, and would gather, in spite of all 
remonstrance, some of her choice flowers as a parting 
nosegay. She did, indeed, just hint at her troubles 
with visitors and servants, — how strange and sad it 
was ! seemed distressed at ringing the bell, and visibly 
shrank from the sound of a double knock. But, in 
spite of these calamities, Hannah is a happy woman. 
The double rap was her husband's ; and the glow on 
her cheek, and the smile of her lips and eyes when he 
appeared, spoke more plainly than ever, " Any where 
with him !" 



WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 



FROST. 



January 23d. — At noon to-day I and my white grey- 
hound, May-flower, set out for a walk into a very beau- 
tiful world, — a sort of silent fairy-land,— a creation of 
that matchless magician the hoar-frost. There had 
been just snow enough to cover the earth and all its co- 
lours with one sheet of pure and uniform white, and just 
time enough since the snow had fallen to allow the 
hedges to be freed of their fleecy load, and clothed with 
a delicate coating of rime. The atmosphere was deli- 
ciously calm ; soft, almost mild, in spite of the ther- 
mometer ; no perceptible air, but a stillness that might 
almost be felt ; the sky, rather grey than blue, throw- 
ing out in bold relief the snow-covered roofs of our vil- 
lage, and the rimy trees that rise above them ; and the 
sun shining dimly as through a veil, giving a pale fair 
light, like the moon, only brighter. There was a si- 
lence, too, that might become the moon, as we stood 



28 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

at our little gate looking up the quiet street ; a sabbath- 
like pause of work and play, rare on a work-day J 
nothing was audible but the pleasant hum of frost, 
that low monotonous sound, which is perhaps the near- 
est approach that life and nature can make to silence. 
The very waggons as they come down the hill along 
the beaten track of crisp yellowish frost- dust, glide 
along like shadows; even May's bounding footsteps, 
at her height of glee and of speed, fall like snow upon 
snow. 

But we shall have noise enough presently : May has 
stopped at Lizzy's door ; and Lizzy, as she sate on the 
window-sill, with her bright rosy face laughing through 
the casement, has seen her and disappeared. She is 
coming. No ! The key is turning in the door, and 
sounds of evil omen issue through the key-hole — 
sturdy ' let-me-outs,' and ' I will-gos,' mixed with shrill 
cries on May and on me from Lizzy, piercing through 
a low continuous harangue, of which the prominent 
parts are apologies, chilblains, sliding, broken bones, 
loUypops, rods, and gingerbread, from Lizzy's careful 
mother. ' Don't scratch the door, May ! Don't roar 
so, my Lizzy ! We'll call for you as we come back.' — 
* I'll go now! Let me out; I will go!' are the last 
words of Miss Lizzy. Mem. Not to spoil that child — 
if I can help it. But I do think her mother might 
have let the poor little soul walk with us to-day. No-^ 



FROST AND THAW. §9 

thing worse for children than coddling. Nothing better 
for chilblains than exercise. Besides, I don't believe 
she has any — and as to breaking her bones in sliding, 
I don't suppose there's a slide on the common. These 
murmming cogitations have brought us up the hill, 
and half-way across the light and airy common, with 
its bright expanse of snow and its clusters of cottages, 
whose turf fires send such wreaths of smoke sailing up 
the air, and diffusing such aromatic fragrance around. 
And now comes the delightful sound of childish voices, 
ringing with glee and merriment almost from beneath 
our feet. Ah, Lizzy, your mother was right ! They 
are shouting from that deep irregular pool, all glass 
now, where, on two long, smooth, liny slides, half a 
dozen ragged urchins are slipping along in tottering 
triumph. Half a dozen steps bring us to the bank 
right above them. May can hardly resist the tempta- 
tion of joining her friends, for most of the varlets are 
of her acquaintance, especially the rogue who leads the 
slide, — he with the brimless hat, whose bronzed com- 
plexion and white flaxen hair, reversing the usual lights 
and shadows of the human countenance, give so strange 
and foreign a look to his flat and comic features. This 
hobgoblin. Jack Rapley by name, is May's great crony ; 
and she stands on the brink of the steep irregular 
descent, her black eyes fixed full upon him, as if she 
intended him the favour of jumping on his head. She 



30 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

does : she is down, and upon him : but Jack Rapley is 
not easily to be knocked off his feet. He saw her 
coming, and in the moment of her leap sprang dexte- 
rously off the slide on the rough ice, steadying himself 
by the shoulder of the next in the file, which unlucky 
follower, thus unexpectedly checked in his career, fell 
plump backwards, knocking down the rest of the line 
like a nest of card-houses. There is no harm done ; 
but there they lie roaring, kicking, sprawling, in every 
attitude of comic distress, whilst Jack Rapley and May- 
flower, sole authors of this calamity, stand apart from 
the throng, fondling, and coquetting, and compliment- 
ing each other, and very visibly laughing. May in her 
black eyes, Jack in his wide close-shut mouth, and his 
whole monkey-face, at their comrades' mischances. I 
think. Miss May, you may as well come up again, and 
leave Master Rapley to fight your battles. He'll get 
out of the scrape. He is a rustic wit — a sort of Robin 
Goodfellow — the sauciest, idlest, cleverest, best-natur- 
ed boy in the parish ; always foremost in mischief, and 
always ready to do a .good turn. The sages of our 
village predict sad things of Jack Rapley, so that I am 
sometimes a little ashamed to confess, before wise 
people, that I have a lurking predilection for him, (in 
common with other naughty ones), and that I like to 
hear him talk to May almost as well as she does. 
* Come, May !' and up she springs, as light as a bird. 



FROST AND THAW. 31 

The road is gay now; carts and post-chaises, and 
girls in red cloaks, and, afar off, looking almost like a 
toy, the coach. It meets us fast and soon. How 
much happier the walkers look than the riders — espe- 
cially the frost-bitten gentleman, and the shivering 
lady with the invisible face, sole passengers of that 
commodious machine! Hooded, veiled, and bonneted 
as she is, one sees from her attitude how miserable she 
would look uncovered. 

Another pond, and another noise of children. More 
sliding ? Oh ! no. This is a sport of higher preten- 
sion. Our good neighbour, the lieutenant, skaiting, 
and his own pretty little boys, and two or three other 
four-year-old elves, standing on the brink in an ecstasy 
of joy and wonder ! Oh what happy spectators ! And 
what a happy performer ! They admiring, he admired, 
with an ardour and sincerity never excited by all the 
quadrilles and the spread eagles of the Seine and the 
Serpentine, He really skaites well though, and I am 
glad I came this way ; for, with all the father's feelings 
sitting gaily at his heart, it must still gratify the pride 
of skill to have one spectator at that solitary pond who 
has seen skaiting before. 

Now we have reached the trees, — the beautiful trees! 
never so beautiful as to-day. Imagine the effect of a 
straight and regular double avenue of oaks, nearly a 
mile long, arching over head, and closing into perspec- 



82 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

tive like the roof and columns of a cathedral, every tree 
and branch encrusted with the bright and delicate con- 
gelation of hoar-frost, white and pure as snow, delicate 
and defined as carved ivory. How beautiful it is, how 
uniform, how various, how filling, how satiating to the 
eye and to the mind — above all, how melancholy! 
There is a thrilling awfulness, an intense feeling of 
simple power in that naked and colourless beauty, 
which falls on the heart like the thought of death — 
death pure, and glorious, and smiling, — but still death, 
Sculpture has always the same effect on my imagination, 
and painting never. Colour is life. — We are now at the 
end of this magnificent avenue, and at the top of a stejep 
eminence commanding a wide view over four counties — 
a landscape of snow. A deep lane leads abruptly down 
the hill; a mere narrow cart-track, sinking between 
high banks clothed with fern and furze and low broom, 
crowned with luxuriant hedgerows, and famous for 
their summer smell of thyme. How lovely these banks 
are now — the tall weeds and the gorse fixed and stif- 
fened in the hoar frost, which fringes round the bright 
prickly holly, the pendent foliage of the bramble, and 
the deep orange leaves of the pollard oaks ! Oh, this 
is rime in its loveliest form ! And there is still a berry 
here and there on the holly, " blushing in its natural 
coral" through the delicate tracery, still a stray hip or 
haw for the small birds, who abound here always. The 



FROST AND THAW. SS 

poor birds, how tame they are, how sadly tame ! There 
is the beautiful and rare crested wren, " that shadow 
of a bird," as White of Selborn calls it, perched in the 
middle of the hedge, nestling as it were amongst the 
cold bare boughs, seeking, poor pretty thing, for the 
warmth it will not find. And there, farther on, just 
under the bank, by the slender runlet, which still 
trickles between its transparent fantastic margin of thin 
ice, as if it were a thing of life, — there, with a swift 
scudding motion, flits, in short low flights, the gor- 
geous kingfisher, its magnificent plumage of scarlet and 
blue flashing in the sun, like the glories of some tro- 
pical bird. He is come for water to this little spring by 
the hill side, — water which even his long bill and slen- 
der head can hardly reach, so nearly do the fantastic 
forms of those garland-like icy margins meet over the 
tiny stream beneath. It is rarely that one sees the shy 
beauty so close or so long ; and it is pleasant to see him 
in the grace and beauty of his natural liberty, the only 
way to look at a bird. We used, before we lived in a 
street, to fix a little board outside the parlour-window, 
and cover it with bread-crumbs in the hard weather. It 
was quite delightful to see the pretty things come and 
feed, to conquer their shyness, and do away their mis- 
trust. First came the more social tribes, " the robin 
red-breast and the wren," cautiously, suspiciously, pick- 
ing up a crumb on the wing, with the little keen bright 

D 



34 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

eye fixed on the window ; then they would stop for two 
pecks ; then stay till they were satisfied. The shyer 
birds, tamed by their example, came next ; and at last 
one saucy fellow of a blackbird — a sad glutton, he 
would clear the board in two minutes, — used to tap his 
yellow bill against the window for more. How we 
loved the fearless confidence of that fine, frank-hearted 
creature ! And surely he loved us. I wonder the prac- 
tice is not more general. — " May ! May ! naughty 
May !" She has frightened away the kingfisher ; and 
now, in her coaxing penitence, she is covering me with 
snow. *' Come, pretty May ! it is time to go home." 



TttAW. 

January 28th.— We have had rain, and snow, an<^ 
frost, and rain again ; four days of absolute confine- 
ment. Now it is a thaw and a flood ; but our light 
gravelly soil, and country boots, and country hardi- 
hood, will carry us through. What a dripping com- 
fortless day it is ! just like the last days of November : 
no sun, no sky, grey or blue ; one low overhanging, 
dark, dismal cloud, like London smoke: May-flower 
is out coursing too, and Lizzy gone to school. Never 
mind. Up the hill again ! Walk we must. Oh what 
a watery world to look back upon ! ThameSj Kennet, 



FROST AND THAW. o5 

Loddon — all overflowed ; our famous town, inland 
once, turned into a sort of Venice ; C. park converted 
into an island ; and the long range of meadows from B. 
to W. one huge unnatural lake, with trees growing out 
of it. Oh what a watery world ! — I will look at it no 
longer. I will walk on. The road is alive again. 
Noise is re-born. Waggons creak, horses plash, carts 
rattle, and pattens paddle through the dirt with more 
than their Usual clink. The common has its old fine 
tints of green and brown, and its old variety of inha- 
bitants, horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and donkeys. The 
ponds are unfrozen, except where some melancholy 
piece of r/ielting ice floats sullenly upon the water ; and 
cackling geese and gabbling ducks have replaced the 
lieutenant and Jack Rapley. The avenue is chill and 
dark, the hedges ai;e dripping, the lanes knee-deep, 
and all nature is in a state of " dissolution and thaw," 



1) 2 



MODERN ANTIQUES. 



Early in thfe present century there lived in the ancient 
town of B. two complete and remarkable specimens of 
the ladies of eighty years ago — ladies cased inwardly 
and outwardly in Addison and whalebone. How they 
had been preserved in this entireness, amidst the colli- 
sion and ridicule of a country town, seemed as puzzling 
a question as the preservation of bees in amber, or 
mummies in pyramids, or any other riddle that serves 
to amuse the naturalist or the antiquarian. But so it 
was. They were old maids and sisters, and so alike in 
their difference from all other women, that they may 
be best described together ; any little non-resemblance 
may be noted afterwards ; it was no more than nature, 
prodigal of variety, would make in two leaves from 
the same oak-tree. 

Both, then, were as short as women well could be 
without being entitled to the name of dwarf, or carried 
about to fairs for a show ; — both were made consider- 
ably shorter by the highest of all high heels, and th& 



MODERN ANTIQUES. 37 

tallest of all tall caps, each of which artificial elevations 
was as ostentatiously conspicuous as the legs and cover 
of a pipkin, and served equally to add to the squatness 
of the real machine ; both were lean, wrinkled, withered, 
and old; both enveloped their aged persons in the 
richest silks, displayed over large hoops, and stays the 
tightest and stiffest that ever pinched in a beauty of 
George the Second's reign. The gown was of that 
make formerly, I believe, called a sacque, and of a 
pattern so enormous, that one flower, with its stalk 
and leaves, would nearly cover the three quarters of a 
yard in length, of which the tail might, at a moderate 
computation, consist. Over this they wore a gor- 
geously figured apron, whose flourishing white em- 
broidery vied in size with the plants on the robe ; a 
snowy muslin neckerchief, rigidly pinned down; and 
over that a black lace tippet of the same shape, parting 
at the middle, to display a gay breast-knot. The ri- 
band of which this last decoration was composed was 
generally the same which adorned the towering lap- 
peted cap, a sort of poppy colour, which they called 
Pompadour. The sleeves were cut off* below the el- 
bows with triple ruffles of portentous length. Brown 
leather mittens, with peaks turned back, and lined 
with blue satin, and a variety of tall rings in an odd, 
out-of-fashion variety of enamelling, and figures of hair, 



38 MODERN ANTIQUES. 

completed the decoration of their hands and arms. The 
carriage of these useful members was at least equally 
singular ; they had adapted themselves in a remarkable 
manner to the little taper wasp-like point in which the 
waist ended, to which the elbows, ruffles and all, ad- 
hered as closely as if they had been glued, whilst the 
ringed and mittened hands, when not employed in 
knitting, were crossed saltier-wise, in front of the 
^pron. The other termination of their figure was 
adorned with black stuff shoes, very peaked, with 
points upwards, and massive silver buckles. Their 
walking costume was, in winter, a black silk cloak, 
lined with rabbit-skins, with holes for the arms ; in 
summer, another tippet and a calash, — no bonnet could 
hold the turreted cap. Their motion out of doors was 
indescribable ; it most nearly resembled sailing. They 
seemed influenced by the wind in a way incidental to no 
moving thing, except a ship or a shuttlecock ; and, in* 
deed, one boisterous blowing night, about the equinox, 
when standing on some high stone steps, waiting for a 
carriage to take her home from a party, the wind did 
catch one of them, and, but for the intervention of a 
tall footman, who seized her as one would seize a fly- 
away umbrella, and held her down by main force, the 
poor little lady would have been carried up like an air-? 
balloon. Her feelings must have laeen pretty much si-? 



MODERN ANTIQUES. 39 

milar to those of Gulliver in Brobdignag, when flown 
away with by the eagle. Half a minute later, and she 
was gone. 

So far they were exact counterparts. The chief va- 
riation lay in the face. Amidst the general hue of age 
and wrinkles, you could just distinguish that Mrs. 
Theodosia had been brown, and Mrs. Frances fair. 
There was a yellow shine here and there amongst the 
white hairs, curiously rolled over a cushion high above 
the forehead, that told of Fanny's golden locks ; whilst 
the purely grey rouleau of Mrs. Theodosia showed its 
mixture of black and white still plainer. Mrs. Frances, 
too, had the blue eye, with a laughing light, which so 
often retains its flash to extreme age ; whilst Mrs. 
Theodosia's orbs, bright no longer, had once been 
hazel. Mrs. Theodosia's aquiline nose, and long so- 
ciable chin, evinced that disposition to meet which is 
Commonly known by the name of a pair of nut-crackers ; 
Mrs. Frances' features, on the other hand, were rather 
terse and sharp. Still there was, in spite of these ma-^ 
terial differences, that look of kindred, that inexplica- 
ble and indefinable family likeness, which is so fre- 
quently found in sisters ; greatly increased in the pre- 
sent case by a similarity in the voice that was quite 
startling. Both tongues were quick and clear, and 
high and rattling, to a degree that seemed rather to be^ 
long to machinery than to human articulation ; and 



40 MODERN ANTIQUES, 

when welcomes and how-d'ye-dos were pouring both at 
once on either side, a stranger was apt to gaze in ludi- 
crous perplexity, as if beset by a ventriloquist, or 
haunted by strange echoes. When the immediate 
cackle subsided, they were easily distinguished. Mrs. 
Theodosia was good, and kind, and hospitable, and 
social; Mrs. Frances was all that, and was besides 
shrewd, and clever, and literary, to a degree not very 
common in her day, though not approaching to the 
pitch of a blue-stocking lady of the present. Accident 
was partly the cause of this unusual love of letters. 
They had known Richardson ; had been admitted 
amongst his flower-garden of young ladies ; and still 
talked familiarly of Miss Highmore, Miss Fielding, 
Miss Collier, and Miss Mulso, — they had never learned 
to call her Mrs. Chapone. Latterly the taste had been 
renewed and quickened, by their having the honour of 
a distant relationship to one of the most amiable and 
unfortunate of modern poets. So Mrs. Frances studied 
novels and poetry, in addition to her sister's sermons 
and cookery-books ; though (as she used to boast) 
without doing a stitch the less of knitting, or playing a 
pool the fewer in the course of the year. Their usual 
occupations were those of other useful old ladies ; su- 
perintending the endowed girls' school of the town with 
a vigilance and a jealousy of abuses that might have 
done honour to Mr. Hume ; taking an active p^rt in the 



MODERN ANTIQUES. 41 

more private charities, donations of flannel petticoats, 
or the loan of baby-things ; visiting in a quiet way ; 
and going to church whenever the church door was 
open. 

Their abode was a dwelling ancient and respectable, 
like themselves, that looked as if it had never under- 
gone the slightest variation, inside or out, since they 
had been born in it. The rooms were many, low and 
small ; full of little windows with little panes, and 
chimneys stuck perversely in the corners. The fur- 
niture was exactly to correspond; little patches of 
carpets in the middle of the slippery, dry-rubbed 
floors ; tables and chairs of mahogany, black with age, 
but exceedingly neat and bright; and Japan cabinets 
and old China, which Mr. Beckford might have envied 
— treasures which had either never gone out of fashion, 
or had come in again. The garden was beautiful and 
beautifully placed ; a series of terraces descending to 
rich and finely timbered meadows, through which the 
slow magnificent Thames rolled under the fine chalky 
hills of the pretty village of C. It was bounded on one 
side by the remains of an old friary, the end wall of a 
chapel with a Gothic window of open tracery in high 
preservation, as rich as point lace. It was full too of 
old-fashioned durable flowers, jessamine, honeysuckle, 
and the high-scented fraxinella ; I never saw that deli- 
cious plant in such profusion. The garden-walks were 

2 



4t2 MODERN ANTIQUES. 

almost as smooth as the floors, thanks to the two assi- 
duous serving maidens (nothing like a man servant ever 
entered this maidenly abode) who attended it. One 
the under damsel, was a stout strapping country wench, 
changed from time to time as it happened ; the other 
was as much a fixture as her mistresses. She had lived 
with them for forty years, and, except being twice as 
big and twice as tall, might have passed for another 
sister. She wore their gowns, (the two just made her 
one,) caps, ruffles, and aprons ; talked with their 
voices and their phrases ; followed them to church, 
and school, and market ; scolded the school'mistress ; 
heard the children their catechism ; cut out flannel pet- 
ticoats, and knit stockings to give away. Never was 
so complete an instance of assimilation ! She had even 
become like them in face. 

Having a brother who resided at a beautiful seat in 
the neighbourhood, and being to all intents and pur- 
poses of the patrician order, their visitors were very 
select, and rather more from the country than the town. 
Six formed the general number, — one table — a rubber 
or a pool — seldom more. As the only child of a very 
favourite friend, I used, during the holidays, to be ad- 
mitted as a supernumerary ; at first out of compliment 
to mama ; latterly I stood on my own merits. I was 
found to be a quiet little girl; an excellent hander of 
mufflns and cake ; a connoisseur in green tea ; an ams" 



MODERN ANTIQUES. 43 

teur of quadrille — the most entertaining of ail games to 
a looker-on ; and, lastly and chiefly, a great lover and 
admirer of certain books, which filled two little shelves 
at cross corners with the chimney — namely, that volume 
of Cowper's Poems which contained John Gilpin, and 
the whole seven volumes of Sir Charles Grandison. 
With what delight I used to take down those dear 
books ! It was an old edition ;■— perhaps that very first 
edition which, as Mrs. Barbauld says, the fine ladies 
used to hold up to one another at Ranelagh, — and 
adorned with prints, not certainly of the highest merit 
as works of art, but which served exceedingly to rea- 
lise the story, and to make us, as it were, personally 
acquainted with the characters. The costume was 
pretty much that of my worthy hostesses, especially that 
of the two Miss Selbys ; there was even in Miss Nancy's 
face a certain likeness to Mrs. Frances. I remember I 
used to wonder whether she carried her elbows in the 
same way. How I read and believed, and believed 
and read ; and liked lady G. though I thought her 
naughty ; and gave all my wishes to Harriet, though 
I thought her silly ; and loved Emily with my whole 
h^art ! Clementina I did not quite understand ; nor (I 
am half afraid to say so) do I now ; and Sir Charles I 
positively disliked. He was the only thing in the book 
that I disbelieved. Those bowings seemed incredible. 
At last, however, I extended my faith even to him ; 



M MODERN ANTIQUES. 

partly influenced by the irresistibility of the author, 
partly by the appearance of a real living beau, who in 
the matter of bowing might almost have competed with 
Sir Charles himself. This beau was no other than 
the town member, who, with his brother, was, when 
in the country, the constant attendant at these chosen 
parties. 

Our member was a man of seventy, or thereabout, 
but wonderfully young-looking and well-preserved. 
It was said, indeed, that no fading belle was bet- 
ter versed in cosmetic secrets, or more devoted 
to the duties of the toilet. Fresh, upright, un- 
wrinkled, pearly-teethed, and point device in his 
accoutrements, he might have passed for fifty; and 
doubtless often did pass for such when apart from his 
old-looking younger brother ; who, tall, lanky, sham- 
bling, long-visaged, and loosely dressed, gave a very 
vivid idea of Don Quixote, when stripped of' his ar- 
mour. Never was so consummate a courtier as our 
member ! Of good family and small fortune, he had 
early in life been seized with the desire of representing 
the town in which he resided ; and canvassing, sheer 
canvassing, without eloquence, without talent, without 
bribery, had brought him in and kept him in. There 
his ambition stopped. To be a member of parliament 
was with him not the means but the end of advance- 
ment. For forty years he represented an independent 



MODERN ANTIQUES. 45 

borough, and, though regularly voting with every suc- 
cessive ministry, was, at the end of his career, as poor 
as when he began. He never sold himself, or stood 
suspected of selling himself — perhaps he might some- 
times give himself away. But that he could not help. 
It was almost impossible for him to say No to any 
body, — quite so to a minister, or a constituent, or a 
constituent's wife or daughter. So he passed bowing 
and smiling through the world, the most disinterested 
of courtiers, the most subservient of upright men, with 
little other annoyance than a septennial alarm, — for 
sometimes an opposition was threatened, and some- 
times it came ; but then he went through a double 
course of smirks and hand-shakings, and all was 
well again. The great grievance of his life must have 
been the limitation in the number of franks. His 
apologies, when he happened to be full, were such as 
a man would make for a great fault ; his lamentations, 
such as might become a great misfortune. Of course 
there was something ludicrous in this courtliness, but 
it was not contemptible ; it only wanted to be ob- 
viously disinterested to become respectable. The ex- 
pression might be exaggerated ; but the feeling was 
real. He was always ready to show kindness to the 
utmost of his power to any human being. He would 
have been; just as civil and supple if he had not 



46 MODER]^ ANTIQUES. 

been M. P. It was his vocation. He could not 
help it. 

This excellent person was an old bachelor ; and 
there was a rumour, some forty or fifty years old, that 
in the days of their bloom, there had been a little lov® 
affair, an attachment, some even said an engagement, 
how broken none could tell, between him and Mrs. 
Frances. Certain it is, that there were symptoms of 
flirtation still. His courtesy, always gallant to every 
female, had something more real and more tender to* 
wards " Fanny," as he was wont to call her ; and 
Fanny, on her side, was as conscious as heart could 
desire. She blushed and bridled ; fidgeted with her 
mittens or her apron ; flirted a fan nearly as tall as 
herself, and held her head on one side with that pecu- 
liar air which I have noted in - the shyer birds, and 
ladies in love. She manoeuvred to get him next her 
at the tea-table ; liked to be his partner at whist ; 
loved to talk of him in his absence ; knew to an hour 
the time of his return ; and did not dislike a little 
gentle raillery on the subject —even I — But, traitress 
to my sex, how can I jest with such feelings ? Rather 
let me sigh over the world of woe, that in fifty years of 
hopeless constancy must have passed through that 
maiden heart ! The timid hope ; the sickening sus- 
pense ; the slow, slow fear ; the bitter disappointment ; 



MODERN ANTIQUES. 47 

the powerless anger ; the relenting ; the forgiveness ; 
and then again, that interest, kinder, truer, more un- 
changing than friendship, that lingering woman's love 
— Oh how can I jest over such feelings ? They are 
passed away — for she is gone, and he — but they clung 
by her to the last, and ceased only in death. 



A GREAT FARM-HOUSE. 



These are bad times for farmers. I am sorry for it. 
Independently of all questions of policy, as a mere 
matter of taste and of old association, it was a fine 
thing to witness the hearty hospitality, and to think of 
the social happiness of a great farm-house. No situa- 
tion in life seemed so richly privileged ; none had so 
much power for good and so little for evil ; it seemed a 
place where pride could not live, and poverty could not 
enter. These thoughts pressed on my mind the other 
day, in passing the green sheltered lane, overhung 
with trees like an avenue, that leads to the great farm 
at M., where, ten or twelve years ago, I used to spend 
so many pleasant days. I could not help advancing a 
few paces up the lane, and then turning to lean over 
the gate, seemingly gazing on the rich undulating 
valley, crowned with woody hills, which, as I stood 
under that dark and shady arch, lay bathed in the 
sunshine before me, but really absorbed in thoughts of 
other times, in recollections of the old delights of that 



A GREAT FARM-HOUSE. 49 

delightful place, and of the admirable qualities of its 
owners. How often I had opened that gate, and how 
gaily — certain of meeting a smiling welcome — and what 
a picture of comfort it was ! 

Passing up the lane, we used first to encounter a 
thick solid suburb of ricks, of all sorts, shapes, and 
dimensions. Then came the farm, like a town ; a 
magnificent series of buildings, stables, cart-houses, 
cow-houses, granaries, and barns, that might hold half 
the corn of the parish, placed at all angles towards 
each other, and mixed with smaller habitations for 
pigs, dogs, and poultry. They formed, together with 
the old substantial farm-house, a sort of amphitheatre, 
looking over a beautiful meadow, which swept greenly 
and abruptly down into fertile inclosures, richly set 
with hedge-row timber, oak, and ash, and elm. Both 
the meadow and the farm-yard swarmed with inhabi- 
tants of the earth and of the air ; horses, oxen, cows, 
calves, heifers, sheep, and pigs ; beautiful greyhounds, 
all manner of poultry, a tame goat, and a pet donkey. 

The master of this land of plenty was well fitted to 
preside over it ; a thick, stout man, of middle height, 
and middle age, with a healthy, ruddy, square face, 
all alive with intelligence and good-humour. There 
was a lurking jest in his eye, and a smile about the 
corners of his firmly-closed lips, that gave assurance 
of good fellowship. His voice was loud enough to 



5Q A GREAT FARM-HOUSE. 

have hailed a ship at sea, without the assistance of a 
speaking-trumpet, wonderfully rich and round in its 
tones, and harmonizing admirably with his bluff, jovial 
visage. He wore his dark shining hair combed 
straight over his forehead, and had a trick, when par- 
ticularly merry, of stroking it down with his hand. 
The moment his right hand approached his head, out- 
flew a jest. 

Besides his own great farm, the business of which 
seemed to go on like machinery, always regular, pros- 
perous, and unfailing, — besides this and two or three 
constant stewardships, and a perpetual succession of 
arbitrations, in which, siich was the influence of his 
acuteness, his temper, and his sturdy justice, that he 
was often named by both parties, and left to decide 
alone, — in addition to these occupations, he was a sort 
of standing overseer and church-warden ; he ruled his 
own hamlet like a despotic monarch, and took a prime 
minister's share in the government of the large parish 
to which it was attached ; and one of the gentlemen, 
whose estates he managed, being the independent 
member for an independent borough, he had every 
now and then a contested election on his shoulders. 
Even that did not discompose him. He had always 
leisure to receive his friends at home, or to visit thera 
abroad ; to take journeys to London, or mdke excur- 
sions to the sea-side ; was as punctual in pleasure as in 



A GREAT FARM-HOUSE. 51 

business, and thought being happy aud making happy 
as much the purpose of his life as getting rich. His 
great amusement was coursing. He kept several 
brace of capital greyhounds, so high-blooded, that I 
remember when five of them were confined in five 
different kennels on account of their ferocity. The 
greatest of living painters once called a greyhound, 
" the line of beauty in perpetual motion." Our 
friend's large dogs were a fine illustration of this 
remark. His old dog, Hector, for instance, for whom 
he refused a hundred guineas, — what a superb dog 
was Hector! — a model of grace and symmetry, necked 
and crested like an Arabian, and bearing himself with 
a stateliness and gallantry that showed some " con- 
science of his worth." He was the largest dog I ever 
saw ; but so finely proportioned, that the most deter- 
mined fault-finder could call him neither too long nor 
too heavy. There was not an inch too much of him. 
His colour was the purest white, entirely unspotted, 
except that his head was very regularly and richly 
marked with black. Hector was certainly a perfect 
beauty. But the little bitches, on which his master 
piqued himself still more, were not in my poor judg- 
ment so admirable. They were pretty little round, 
graceful things, sleek and glossy, and for the most 
part milk-white, with the smallest heads, and the most 
dove-like eyes that were ever seen. There was a 

E 2 



52 A GREAT FARM-HOUSE. 

peculiar «ort of innocent beauty about them, like that 
of a roly-poly child. They were as gentle as lambs 
too : all the evil spirit of the family evaporated in the 
gentlemen. But, to my thinking, these pretty crea- 
tures were fitter for the parlour than the field. They 
were strong, certainly, excellently loined, cat-footed, 
and chested like a war-horse ; but there was a want 
of length about them — a want of room, as the coursers 
say ; something a little, a very little inclining to the 
clumsy ; a dumpiness, a pointer-look. They went off 
like an arrow from a bow ; for the first hundred yards 
nothing could stand against them ; then they began to 
flag, to find their weight too much for their speed, and 
to lose ground from the shortness of the stroke. 
Up-hill, however, they were capital. There their 
compactness told. They turned with the hare, and 
lost neither wind nor way in the sharpest ascent. I 
shall never forget one single-handed course of our 
good friend's favourite little bitch Helen, on W. Hill. 
All the coursers were in the valley below, looking up 
to the hill side as on a moving picture. I suppose 
she turned the hare twenty times on a piece of green- 
sward not much bigger than an acre, and as steep as 
the roof of a house. It was an old hare, a famous 
hare, one that had baffled half the dogs in the county ; 
but she killed him ; and then, though almost as large 
as herself, took it up in her mouth, brought it to her 



A GREAT FARM-HOUSE. 5S 

master, and laid it down at his feet. Oh how pleased 
he was ! and what a pleasure it was to see his triumph ! 
He did not always find W. Hill so fortunate. It is a 
high steep hill, of a conical shape, encircled by a moun- 
tain road winding up to the summit like a cork-screw, 
■ — a deep road dug out of the chalk, and fenced by high 
mounds on either side. The hares always make for 
this hollow way, as it is called, because it is too wide 
for a leap, and the dogs lose much time in mounting 
and descending the sharp acclivities. Very eager dogs 
will sometimes dare the leap, and two of our good 
friend's favourite greyhounds perished in the attempt in 
two following years. They were found dead in the 
hollow way. After this he took a dislike to distant 
coursing meetings, and sported chiefly on his own beau- 
tiful farm. 

His wife was like her husband, with a difference, as 
they say in heraldry. Like him in looks, only thinner 
and paler ; hke him in voice and phrase, only not so 
loud ; like him in merriment and good-humour ; like 
him in her talent of welcoming and making happy, and 
being kind ; hke him in cherishing an abundance of 
pets, and in getting through with marvellous facility an 
astounding quantity of business and pleasure. Perhaps 
the quahty in which they resembled each other most 
completely, was the happy ease and serenity of be- 
haviour, so seldom found amongst people of the mid- 



54* A GREAT FARM-HOUSE, 

die rank, who have usually a best manner and a worst, 
and whose best (that is the studied, the company man- 
ner) is so very much the worst. She was frankness it- 
self; entirely free from prickly defiance, or bristling 
self-love. She never took offence or gave it; never 
thought of herself or of what others would think of her ; 
had never been afflicted with the besetting sins of her 
station, a dread of the vulgar, or an aspiration after the 
genteel. Those " words of fear" had never disturbed 
her delightful heartiness. 

Her pets were her cows, her poultry, her bees, and 
her flowers ; chiefly her poultry, almost as numerous 
as the bees, and as various as the flowers. The farm- 
yard swarmed with peacocks, turkeys, geese, tame and 
wild-ducks, fowls, guinea-hens, and pigeons; besides 
a brood or two of favourite bantams in the green court 
before the door, with a little ridiculous strutter of a 
cock at their head, who imitated the magnificent de- 
meanour of the great Tom of the barn-yard, just as Tom 
in his turn copied the fierce bearing of that warlike and 
terrible biped the he-turkey. I am the least in the 
world afraid of a turkey-cock, and used to steer clear 
of the turkery as often as I could. Commend me to the 
peaceable vanity of that jewel of a bird the peacock, 
sweeping his gorgeous tail along the grass, or dropping 
it gracefully from some low-boughed tree, whilst he 
turns round his crested head with the air of a birth-day 



A OREAT FARM-HOUSE. 55 

belle, to see who adinires him. What a glorious crea- 
ture it is ! How thoroughly content with himself and 
with all the world ! 

Next to her poultry our good farmer's wife loved her 
flower-garden ; and indeed it was of the very first wa- 
ter, the only thing^ about the place that was fine. She 
was a real genuine florist; valued pinks, tulips, and 
auriculas, for certain qualities of shape and colour, with 
which beauty has nothing to do ; preferred black ranun- 
culuses, and gave into all „ those obliquities of a triple- 
refined taste by which the professed florist contrives to 
keep pace with the vagaries of the Bibliomaniac. Of 
all odd fashions, that of dark, gloomy, dingy flowers, 
appears to me the oddest. Your true connoisseur noWj 
shall prefer a deep puce hollyhock, to the gay pink 
blossoms which cluster round that splendid plant like a 
pyramid of roses. So did she. The nomenclature of 
her garden was more distressing still. One is never 
thoroughly sociable with flowers till they are naturalized 
as it were, christened, provided with decent, homely, 
well- wearing English names. Now her plants had all 
sorts of heathenish appellations, which,- — no offence to 
her learning,-— always sounded wrong. I liked the 
bees' garden best; the plot of ground^ immediately 
round their hives, filled with common flowers for their 
use, and literally *' redolent of sweets." Bees are in- 
sects of great taste in every way, and seem often to se=> 



56 A GREAT FAR4M-HOUSJE. 

lect for beauty as much as for flavour. They have a 
better eye for colour than the florist. The butterfly is 
also a dilettante. Rover though he be, he generally 
prefers the blossoms that become him best. What a 
pretty picture it is, in a sunshiny autumn day, to see a 
bright spotted butterfly, made up of gold and purple 
and splendid brown, swinging on the rich flower of the 
china aster ! 

To come back to our farm. Within doors every thing 
went as well as without. There were no fine misses 
sitting before the piano, and mixing the alloy of their 
new-fangled tinsel with the old sterling metal ; nothing 
but an only son excellently brought up, a fair slim 
youth, whose extraordinary and somewhat pensive ele- 
gance of mind and manner was thrown into fine relief 
by his father's loud hilarity, and harmonised delight- 
fully with the smiling kindness of his mother. His 
Spensers and Thomsons, too, looked well amongst the 
hyacinths and geraniums that filled the windows of the 
little snug room in which they usually sate ; a sort of 
after-thought, built at an angle from the house, and 
looking into the farm-yard. It was closely packed with 
favourite arm-chairs, favourite sofas, favourite tables, 
and a sideboard decorated with the prize-cups and col- 
lars of the greyhounds, and generally loaded with sub- 
stantial work-baskets, jars of flowers, great pyramids 
of home-made cakes, and sparkling bottles of goose^ 



> A GREAT FARM-HOUSE. 57 

berry-wine, famous all over the country. The walls 
were covered with portraits of half a dozen greyhounds, 
a brace of spaniels, as large as life, an old pony, and 
the master and mistress of the house in half-length. 
She as unlike as possible, prim, mincing, delicate, in 
lace and satin ; he so staringly and ridiculously like, 
that when the picture fixed its good-humoured eyes 
upon you as you entered the room, you were almost 

tempted lo say — How d'ye do ? Alas ! the portraits 

are gone now, and the originals. Death and distance 
have despoiled that pleasant home. The garden has 
lost its smiling mistress ; the greyhounds their kind 
master ; and new people, new manners, and new cares, 
have taken possession of the old abode of peace and 
plenty— the great farm-house. 



LUCY. 



About a twelvemonth ago we had the misfortune to lose 
a very faithful and favourite female servant ; one who 
has spoiled us for all others. Nobody can expect to 
meet with two Lucies. We all loved Lucy — poor Lucy ! 
She did not die — she only married ; but we were so 
sorry to part with her, that her wedding, which was 
kept at our house, was almost as tragical as^ a funeral ; 
and from pure regret and affection we sum up her me- 
rits, and bemoan our loss, just as if she had really de- 
parted this life. 

Lucy's praise is a most fertile theme ; she united the 
pleasant and amusing qualities of a French soubrette 
with the solid excellence of an Englishwoman of the 
old school, and was good by contraries. In the first 
place, she was exceedingly agreeable to look at ; re- 
markably pretty. She lived in our family eleven years ; 
but, having come to us very young, was still under 
thirty, just in full bloom, and a very brilliant bloom it 
was. Her figure was rather tall, and rather large, 



LUCY. 59 

with delicate hands and feet, and a remarkable ease and 
vigour in her motions : I never saw any woman walk so 
fast or so well. Her face was round and dimpled, with 
sparkling grey eyes, black eye-brows and eye-lashes, a 
profusion of dark hair, very red lips, very white teeth, 
and a complexion that entirely took away the look of 
vulgarity which the breadth and flatness of her face 
might otherwise have given. Such a complexion, so 
pure, so finely grained, so healthily fair, with such a 
sweet rosiness, brightening and varying like her danc- 
ing eyes whenever she spoke or smiled ! When silent, 
she was almost pale ; but, to confess the truth, she was 
not often silent. Lucy liked talking, and every body 
liked to hear her talk. There is always great freshness 
and originality in an uneducated and quick-witted per- 
son, who surprises one continually by unsuspected 
knowledge or amusing ignorance ; and Lucy had a real 
talent for conversation. Her light and pleasant temper, 
her cleverness, her universal kindness, and the admi- 
rable address, or rather the excellent feeling, with 
which she contrived to unite the most perfect respect 
with the most cordial and affectionate interest, gave a 
singular charm to her prattle. No confidence or indul- 
gence — and she was well tried with both — ever made 
her forget herself for a moment. All our friends used 
to loiter at the door or in the hall to speak to Lucy, and 
they miss her, and ask for her, as if she were really one 



60 LUCY. 

of the family. She was not less liked by her equals. 
Her constant simplicity and right-mindedness kept her 
always in her place with them as with us; and her 
gaiety and good-humour made her a most welcome vi- 
sitor in every shop and cottage round. She had another 
qualification for village society — she was an incompa- 
rable gossip, had a rare genius for picking up news, and 
great liberality in its diffusion. Births, deaths, mar- 
riages, casualties, quarrels, battles, scandal — nothing 
came amiss to her. She could have furnished a weekly 
paper from her own stores of facts, without once resort- 
ing for assistance to the courts of law or the two houses 
of parliament. She was a very charitable reporter too ; 
threw her own sunshine into the shady places, and 
would hope and doubt as long as either was possible. 
Her fertility of intelligence was wonderful'; and so 
early ! Her news had always the bloom on it : there 
was no being beforehand with Lucy. It was a little 
mortifying when one came prepared with something 
very recent and surprising, something that should have 
made her start with astonishment, to find her fully ac- 
quainted with the story, and able to furnish you with 
twenty particulars that you had never heard of. But this 
evil had its peculiar compensation. By Lucy's aid I 
passed with every body, but Lucy herself, for a wo- 
man of great information, an excellent authority, an 
undoubted reference in all matters of gossipry. Now I 



LUCY. 61 

lag miserably behind the time ; I never hear of a death 
till after the funeral, nor of a wedding till I read it in 
the papers ; and, when people talk of reports and 
rumours, they undo me. I should be obliged to run 
away from the tea-tables, if I had not taken the reso- 
lution to look wise and say nothing, and live on my 
old reputation. Indeed, even now, Lucy's fund is not 
entirely exhausted ; things have not quite done hap- 
pening. I know nothing new ; but my knowledge of 
by-gone passages is absolute ; I can prophesy past 
events like a gipsy. 

Scattered amongst her great merits Lucy had a few 
small faults, as all persons should have. She had oc- 
casionally an aptness to take offence where none was 
intended, and then the whole house bore audible testi- 
mony to her displeasure : she used to scour through 
half-a-dozen doors in a minute for the mere purpose of 
banging them after her. She had rather more fears 
than were quite convenient of ghosts and witches, and 
thunder, and earwigs^ and various other real and un- 
real sights and sounds, and thought nothing of rousing 
half the family in the middle of the night at the first 
symptom of a thunder-storm or an apparition. She 
had a terrible genius for music, and a tremendously 
powerful shrill high voice. Oh ! her door-clapping 
was nothing to her singing ! it rang through one's head 
like the screams of a peacock. Lastly, she was a sad 



6^ JLUCY. 

flirt; she had about twpnty lovers whilst she lived 
with us, probably more, but upwards of twenty she 
acknowledged. Her master, who watched with great 
amusement this uninterrupted and intricate succession 
of favourites, had the habit of calling her by the name 
of the reigning beau — Mrs. Charles, Mrs. John, Mrs. 
Robert ; so that she has answered in her time to as 
many masculine appellations as would serve to supply 
a large family with a *' commodity of good names." 
Once he departed from this custom, and called her 
" Jenny Denison." On her inquiring the reason, we 
showed her " Old Mortality," and asked if she could 
not guess. " Dear me," said she, " why Jenny Deni- 
son had only two !" Amongst Lucy's twenty were 
three one-eyed lovers, like the three one-eyed calen- 
dars in the " Arabian Nights." They were much 
about the same period, nearly contemporaries, and one 
of them had almost carried off the fair Helen. If he 
had had two eyes, his success would have been certain. 
She said yes and no, and yes again ; he was a very 
nice young man — but that one eye — that unlucky one 
eye ! — and the being rallied on her three calendars. 
There was no getting over that one eye : she said no, 
once more, and stood firm. And yet the pendulum 
might have continued to vibrate many times longer, had 
it not been fixed by the athletic charms of a gigantic 
London tailor, a superb man, really ; black-haired, 



LUCY. 63 

black-eyed, six feet high, and large in proportion. 
He came to improve the country fashions, and fixed 
his shop-board in a cottage so near us that his garden 
was only divided from our lawn by a plantation full of 
acacias and honeysuckles, where " the air smelt woo- 
ingly." It followed of course that he should make 
love to Lucy, and that Lucy should listen. All was 
speedily settled ; as soon as he should be established 
in a good business, which, from his incomparable talent 
at cutting out, nobody could doubt, they were to be 
married. But they had not calculated on the perversity 
of country taste ; he was too good a workman ; his 
suits fitted over well ; his employers missed certain ac- 
customed awkwardnesses and redundancies which passed 
for beauties ; besides, the stiffness and tightness which 
distinguished the new coat of the ancien regime^ were 
wanting in the make of the new. The shears of our 
Bond-street cutter were as powerful as the wooden 
sword of Harlequin ; he turned his clowns into gentle- 
men, and their brother clodhoppers laughed at them, 
and they were ashamed. So the poor tailor lost his 
customers and his credit ; and, just as he had obtained 
Lucy's consent to the marriage, he walked off one fair 
morning, and was never heard of more. Lucy's absorb- 
ing feeling on this catastrophe was astonishment, pure 
unmixed astonishment ! One would have thought that 
she considered fickleness as a female privilege, and had 



64 Ltjci^ 

never heard of a man deserting a woman in her life* 
For three days she could only wonder ; then came great 
indignation, and a little, a very little grief, which 
showed itself not so much in her words, which were 
chiefly such disclaimers as " I don't care ! very lucky ! 
happy escape !" and so on, as in her goings and doings, 
her aversion to the poor acacia grove, and even to the 
sight and smell of honeysuckles, her total loss of me* 
mory, and, above all, in the distaste she showed to new 
conquests. She paid her faithless suitor the compli* 
ment of remaining loverless for three weary months j 
and even when she relented a little, she admitted no 
fresh adorer, nothing but an old hanger-on ; one not 
quite discarded during the tailor's reign ; one who had 
dangled after her during the long courtship of the 
three calendars ; one who was the handiest and most 
complaisant of wooers, always ready to fill up an inter- 
val, like a book, which can be laid aside when company 
comes in, and resumed a month afterwards at the very 
page and line where the reader left off. I think it was 
an affair of convenience and amusement on both sides. 
Lucy never intended to marry this commodious stopper 
of love-gaps ; and he, though he courted her for ten 
mortal years, never made a direct offer, till after the 
banns were published between her and her present hus- 
band : then, indeed, he said he was sorry — he had 
hoped — was it too late ? and so forth. Ah ! his sorrow 



LUCY. 65 

was notliing to ours, and, when it came to the point, 
nothing to Lucy's. She cried every day for a fort- 
night, and had not her successor in office, the new 
housemaid, arrived, I do really believe that this lover 
would have shared the fate of the many successors to 
the unfortunate tailor. 

I hope that her choice has been fortunate ; it is cer- 
tainly very different from what we all expected. The 
happy man had been a neighbour, (not on the side of 
the acacia-trees,) and on his removal to a greater dis- 
tance the marriage took place. Poor dear Lucy ! her 
spouse is the greatest possible contrast to herself ; ten 
years younger at the very least ; well-looking, but with 
no expression good or bad — I don't think he could 
smile, if he would — assuredly he never tries ; well 
made, but as stiflf as a poker ; I dare say he never ran 
three yards in his life ; perfectly steady, sober, honest, 
and industrious ; but so young, so grave, so dull ! one 
of your " demure boys," as FalstafF calls them, " that 
never come to proof." You might guess a mile off 
that he was a schoolmaster, from the swelling pompo- 
sity of gait, the solemn decorum of manner, the affec- 
tation of age and wisdom, which contrast so oddly with 
his young unmeaning face. The moment he speaks 
you are certain. Nobody but a village pedagogue 
ever did or ever could talk like Mr. Brown ; ever dis- 
played such elaborate politeness, such a study of 



66 . LUCY. 

phrases, such choice words and long words, and fine 
words and hard words ! He speaks by the book, — ■ 
the spelling book, and is civil after the fashion of the 
Polite Letter-Writer. He is so entirely without tact, 
that he does not in the least understand the impression 
produced by his wife's delightful manners, and inter- 
rupts her perpetually to speechify and apologise, and 
explain and amend. He is fond of her, nevertheless, 
in his own cold, slow way, and proud of her, and 
grateful to her friends, and a very good kind of young 
man altogether ; only that I cannot quite forgive him 
for taking Lucy away, in the first place, and making 
her a school-mistress in the second. She a school- 
mistress, a keeper of silence, a maintainer of disci- 
pline, a scolder, a punisher ! Ah ! she would ra- 
ther be scolded herself; it would be a far lighter 
punishment. Lucy likes her vocation as little as I do. 
She has not the natural love of children, which would 
reconcile her to the evils they cause ; and she has a 
real passion for cleanliness, a fiery spirit of despatch, 
which cannot endure the dust and litter created by the 
little troop on the one hand, or their tormenting slow- 
ness and stupidity on the other. She was the quickest 
and neatest of work-women, piqued herself on com- 
pleting a shirt or a gown sooner and better than 
seemed possible, and was scandalized at finding such 
talents degraded to the ignoble occupations of tacking 



LUCY. O'T- 

a quarter of a yard of hemming for one, pinning half a 
seam for another, picking out the crooked stitching of 
a third, and working over the weak irregular burst- 
out button-hole of a fourth. When she first went to 

S — , she was strongly tempted to do all the 

work herself. " The children would have liked it," 
said she, " and really I don't think the mothers would 
have objected; they care for nothing but marking. 
There are seven girls now in the school working sam- 
plers to be framed. Such a waste of silk, and time, 
and trouble I I said to Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Smith 
said to me." — Then she recounted the whole battle of 
the samplers, and her defeat ; and then she s6nt for 
one which, in spite of her declaration that her ^rls 
never finished any thing, was quite completed (pro- 
bably with a good deal of her assistance), and of 
which, notwithstanding her rational objection to its 
uselessness, Lucy was not little proud. She held it up 
with great delight, pointed out all the beauties, se- 
lected her own favourite parts, especially a certain 
square rose-bud, and the landscape at the bottom; 
and finally pinned it against the wall, to show the 
effect that it would have when framed. Really, that 
sampler was a superb thing in its way. First came a 
plain pink border ; then a green border, zig-zag ; then 
a crimson, wavy; then a brown, of a different and 
more complicated zig-zag ; then the alphabet, great 

f 2 



68 LUCY. 

and small, in every colour of the rainbow, followed by 
a row of figures, flanked on one side by a flower, name 
unknowTi, tulip, poppy, lily — something orange or 
scarlet, or orange-scarlet ; on the other by the famous 
rose-bud ; then diverse sentences, religious and moral : 
—-Lucy was quite provoked with me for not being 
able to read them : I dare say she thought in her 
heart that I was as stupid as any of her scholars ; but 
never was MS. so illegible, not even my own, as the 
print-work of that sampler — then, last and finest, the 
landscape, in all its glory. It occupied the whole 
narrow line at the bottom of the sampler, and was 
composed with great regularity. In the centre was 
a house of a bright scarlet, with yellow windows, a 
green door, and a blue roof; on one side, a man with 
a dog ; on the other, a woman with a cat — this is 
Lticy's information ; I should never have guessed that 
there was any difference, except in colour, between 
the man and the woman, the dog and the cat ; they 
were in form, height, and size, alike to a thread ; the 
man grey, the woman pink, his attendant white, and 
her's black. Next to these figures, on either side, 
rose two fir-trees from two red flower-pots, nice little 
round bushes of a bright green intermixed with brown 
stitches, which Lucy explained, not to me. — " Don't 
you see the fir-cones, Sir ? Don't you remember 
how fond she used to be of picking them up in her 



LUCY. 69 

little basket at the dear old place ? Poor thing, I 
thought of her all the time that I was working them ! 

Don't you like the fir-cones ?" After this, I 

looked at the landscape almost as lovingly as Lucy 
herself. 

With all her dislike to keeping school, the dear 
Lucy seems happy. In addition to the merciful spirit 
of conformity, which shapes the mind to the situation, 
whatever that may be, she has many sources of vanity 
and comfort— her house above all. It is a very re- 
spectable dwelling, finely placed on the edge of a 
large common, close to a high road, with a pretty 
flower-court before it, shaded by four horse-chesnuts 
cut into arches, a sashed window on either side of the 
door, and on the door a brass knocker, which, being 
securely nailed down, serves as a quiet peaceable 
handle for all goers, instead of the importunate and 
noisy use for which it was designed. Jutting out at 
one end of the court is a small stable ; retiring back at 
the other, a large school-room, and behind a yard 
for children, pigs, and poultry, a garden, and an 
arbour. The inside is full of comfort ; miraculously 
clean and larderly for a village school, and with a 
little touch of very allowable finery in the gay window- 
curtains, the cupboard full of pretty china, the hand- 
some chairs, the bright mahogany table, the shining 
tea-urn, and brilliant tea-tray that decorate the parlour* 



70 . LUCY. 

What a pleasure it is to see Lucy presiding in that 
parlour, in all the glory of her honest affectioiy and 
her warm hospitality, making tea for the three guests 
whom she loves best in the world, vaunting with cour- 
teous pride her home-made bread and her fresh butter, 
yet thinking nothing good enough for the occasion ; 
smiling and glowing, and looking the very image of 
beautiful happiness. — Such a moment almost consoles 
us for losing her. 

Lucy's pleasure is in her house ; mine is in its situa- 
tion. The common on which it stands is one of a 
series of heathy hills, or rather a high table land, 
pierced in one part by a ravine of marshy ground, 
filled with alder bushes, growing larger and larger as 
the valley "widens, and at last mixing with the fine old 

oaks of the forest of P . Nothing can be more 

delightful than to sit on the steep brow of the hill, 
amongst the fragrant heath flowers, the blue-bells, and 
the wild thyme, and look upon the sea of trees spread- 
ing out beneath us ; the sluggish water just peeping 
from amid the alders, giving brightly back the bright 
blue sky ; and, farther down, herds of rough ponies, 
and of small stunted cows, the wealth of the poor, 
coming up from the forest. I have sometimes seen 
two hundred of these cows together, each belonging 
to a different person, and distinguishing and obeying 
Ibe call of its milker. AH the boundaries of this heath 



LUCY. 71 

are beautiful. On one side is the hanging coppice, 
where the lily of the valley grows so plentifully amongst 
broken ridges and fox-earths, and the roots of pollard- 
trees. On another are the immense fir plantations of 
Mr. B., whose balmy odour hangs heavily in the air, 
or comes sailing on the breeze like smoke across the 
landscape. Farther on, beyond the pretty parsonage- 
house, with its short avenue, its fish-ponds, and the 
magnificent poplars which form a landmark for many 
miles round, rise the rock-like walls of the old city of 

S , one of the most perfect Roman remains now 

existing in England. The wall can be traced all 
round, rising sometimes to a height of twenty feet, 
over a deep narrow slip of meadow land, once the 
ditch, and still full of aquatic flowers. The ground 
within rises level with the top of the wall, which is of 
grey stone, crowned with the finest forest trees, 
whose roots seem interlaced with the old masonry, and 
covered with wreaths of ivy, brambles, and a hundred 
other trailing plants. Close by one of the openings, 
which mark the site of the gates, is a graduated ter- 
race, called by antiquaries the Amphitheatre, which 
commands a rich and extensive view, and is backed by 
the village church, and an old farm-house,— the sole 
buildings in that once populous city, whose streets are 
now traced only by the blighted and withered appear- 
ance of the ripening corn. Roman coins and urns are 



7^ LUCY. 

often ploughed up there, and it- is a favou/ite haunt oi' 
the lovers of *' hoar antiquity." But the beauty of 
the place is independent even of its noble associations. 
The very heart expands in the deep verdure and per- 
fect loneliness of that narrow winding valley, fenced 
on one side by steep coppices or its own tall irregular 
hedge, on the other by the venerable crag-like wall, 
whose proud coronet of trees, its jutting ivy, its huge 
twisted thorns, its briery festoons, and the deep caves 
where the rabbits burrow, make the old bulwark seem 
no work of man, but a majestic piece of nature. As a 
picture it is exquisite. Nothing can be finer than the 
paixture of those varied greens so crisp and life-like, 
with tlie crumbling grey stone ; nothing more per- 
fectly in harmony with the solemn beauty of the place 
than the deep cooings of the wood-pigeons, who 
abound in the walls. I know no pleasure so intense, 
so soothing, so apt to bring sweet tears into the eyes, 
or to awaken thoughts that "lie too deep for tears," 
as a walk round the old city on a fine summer evening. 

A yide to S- was always delightful to me, even 

before it became the residence of Lucy ; it is now my 
prime festival. 



WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 



THE FIRST PRIMROSE. 

March 6th. — Fine March weather : boisterous, blus^ 
tering, much wind and squalls of rain ; and yet the sky- 
where the clouds are swept away deliciously blue, with 
snatches of sunshine, bright, and clear, and healthful^ 
and the roads, in spite of the slight glittering showers^ 
crisply dry. Altogether, the day is tempting, very 
tempting. It will not do for the dear common, that 
windmill of a walk ; but the close sheltered lanes at the 
bottom of the hill, which keep out just enough of the 
stormy air, and let in all the sun, will be delightful. 
Past our old house, and round by the winding lanes, 
and the workhouse, and across the lea, and so into the 
turnpike-road again, — that is our route for to-day. 
Forth we set, Mayflower and I, rejoicing in the sun- 
shine, and still more in the wind, which gives such an 
intense feeling of existence, and, co-operating with 
brisk motiofj, sets our blood and our spirits in a glow* 



74 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY, 

For mere physical pleasure, there is nothing perhaps 
equal to the enjoyment of being drawn, in a light car- 
riage, against such a wind as this, by a blood horse at 
liis height of speed. Walking comes next to it ; but 
walking is not quite so luxurious or so spiritual, not 
quite so much what one fancies of flying, or being car- 
ried above the clouds in a balloon. 

Nevertheless, a walk is a good thing ; especially un- 
der this southern hedgerow, where nature is just be- 
ginning to live again : the periwinkles, with their starry 
blue flowers, and their shining myrtle-like leaves, gar- 
landing the bushes ; woodbines and elder-trees pushing 
out their small swelling buds ; and grasses and mosses 
springing forth in every variety of brown and green. 
Here we are at the corner where four lanes meet, or ra- 
ther where a passable road of stones and gravel crosses 
an impassable one of beautiful but treacherous turf, and 
where the small white farm-house, scarcely larger than 
a cottage, and the well-stocked rick-yard behind, tell of 
comfort and order, but leave all unguessed the great 
liches of the master. How he became so rich is almost 
a puzzle ; for^ though the farm be his own, it is not 
large ; and, though prudent and frugal on ordinary oc- 
casions, farmer Barnard is no miser. His horses, dogs, 
and pigs, are the best kept in the parish,— May herself, 
although her beauty be injured by her fatness, half en- 
vies the plight of his bitch Fly : his wife's gowns and 



THE FIRST PROmoSE. 7o 

shawls cost as much again as any shawls or gowns in 
the village : his dinner parties (to be sure they are not 
frequent) display twice the ordinary quantity of good 
things —two couples of ducks, two dishes of green peas, 
two turkey poults, two gammons of bacon, two plum- 
puddings ; moreover, he keeps a single-horse chaise, 
and has built and endowed a Methodist chapel. Yet is 
he the richest man in these parts. Every thing pros- 
pers with him. Money drifts about him like snow. He 
looks'like a rich man. There is a sturdy squareness of 
face and figure; a good-humoured obstinacy; a civil 
importance. He never boasts of his wealth, or gives 
himself undue airs ; but nobody can meet him at mar- 
ket or vestry without finding out immediately that he is 
the richest man there. They have no child to all this 
money ; but there is an adopted nephew, a fine spirited 
ladj who may, perhaps, some day or other, play the 
part of a fountain to the reservoir. 

Now turn up the wide road till we come to the open 
common, with its park-like trees, its beautiful stream, 
wandering and twisting along, and its rural bridge. 
Here we turn again, past that other white farm-house, 
half hidden by the magnificent elms which stand before 
it. Ah ! riches dwell not there ; but there is found the 
next best thing— an industrious and light-hearted po- 
verty. Twenty years ago Rachel Hilton was the pret- 
tiest and merriest lass in the country. Her father, an 



^6 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

old game-keeper, had retired to a village ale-house, 
where his good beer, his social humour, and his black- 
eyed daughter, brought much custom. She had lovers 
by the score ; but Joseph White, the dashing and lively 
son of an opulent farmer, carried off the fair Rachel. 
They married and settled here, and here they live still, 
as merrily as ever, with fourteen children of all ages 
and sizes, from nineteen years to nineteen months, 
working harder than any people in the parish, and en- 
joying themselves more* I would match them for la- 
bour and laughter against any family in England. She 
is a blithe, jolly dame, whose beauty has amplified into 
comeliness : he is tall, and thin, and bony, with sinews 
like whipcord, a strong lively voice, a sharp weather- 
beaten face, and eyes and lips that smile and brighten 
when he speaks into a most contagious hilarity. They 
are very poor, and I often wish them richer ; but I 
don't know — perhaps it might put them out. 

Quite close to farmer White's is a little ruinous cot- 
tage, white- washed once, and now in a sad state of be- 
tweenity, where dangling stockings and shirts swelled 
by the wind, drying in a neglected garden, give signal of 
a washerwoman. There dwells, at present in single bless- 
edness, Betty Adams, the wife of our sometime gardener. 
I never saw any one who so much reminded me in per- 
son of that lady whom every body knows, Mistress Meg 
Merrilies ;"=as tall, as grizzled, as stately, as dark, as 



THE FIRST PRIMROSE. 77 

gipsy-looking, bonneted and gowned like her prototype, 
and almost as oracular. Here the resemblance ceases. 
Mrs. Adams is a perfectly honest, industrious, pains-ta- 
king person, who earns a good deal of money by wash- 
ing and charing, and spends it in other luxuries than 
tidiness, — in green tea, and gin, and snufF. Her hus- 
band lives in a great family ten miles off. He is a ca- 
pital gardener — or rather he would be so, if he were 
not too ambitious. He undertakes all things, and 
finishes none. But a smooth tongue, a knowing look, 
and a great capacity of labour, carry him through. Let 
him but like his ale and his master, and he will do work 
enough for four. Give him his own way, and his full 
quantum, and nothing comes amiss to him. 

Ah, May is bounding forward ! Her silly heart leaps 
at the sight of the old place — and so, in good truth, 
does mine. What a pretty place it was, — or rather, 
how pretty I thought it! I suppose I should have 
thought any place so where I had spent eighteen happy 
years. But it was really pretty. A large, heavy, white 
house, in the simplest style, surrounded by fine oaks 
and elms and tall massy plantations shaded down into 
a beautiful lawn, by wild overgrown shrubs, bowery 
acacias, ragged sweet-briars, promontories of dog- 
wood, and Portugal laurel, and bays overhung by la- 
burnum and bird-cherry : a long piece of water letting 
light into the picture, and looking just like a natural 



7S WALKS I^ TJIE COUNTRY. 

Stream, the banks as rude and wild as the shrubbery, 
interspersed with broom, and furze, and bramble, and 
pollard oaks covered with ivy and honeysuckle; the 
whole enclosed by an old mossy park paling, and ter- 
minating in a series of rich meadows, richly planted. 
This is an exact description of the home which, three 
years ago, it nearly broke my heart to leave. What a 
tearing up by the root it was ! I have pitied cabbage 
plants and celery, and all transplantable things ever 
since; though, in common with them and with other 
vegetables, the first agony of the transportation being 
over, I have taken such firm and tenacious hold of my 
new soil, that I would not for the world be pulled up 
again, even to be restored to the old beloved ground ; 
— -not even if its beauty were undiminished, which is by 
no means the case ; for in those three years it has thrice 
changed masters, and every successive possessor has 
brought the curse of improvement upon the place : so 
that between filling up the water to cure dampness, cut- 
ting down trees to let in prospects, planting to keep 
them out, shutting up windows to darken the inside of 
the house, (by which means one end looks precisely as 
an eight of spades would do that should have the mis- 
fortune to lose one of his corner pips,) and building co- 
lonnades to lighten the out, added to a general clear- 
ance of pollards, and brambles, and ivy, and honey* 
suckles, and park palings, and irregular shrubs, the 

6 



THE FIRST PRIMROSE. 79 

poor place is so transmogrified, that if it, had its old 
looking-glass, the water, back again, it would not 
know its own face. And yet I love to haunt round 
about it : so does May. Her particular attraction is a 
certain broken bank full of rabbit burrows, into which 
she insinuates her long pliant head and neck, and tears 
her pretty feet by vain scratchings : mine is a warm 
sunny hedgerow, in the same remote field, famous for 
early flowers. Never was a spot more variously 
flowery : primroses yellow, lilac, white, violets of 
either hue, cowslips, oxlips, arums, orchises, wild hya^ 
cinths, ground ivy, pansies, strawberries, heart's-ease, 
formed a small part of the Flora of that wild hedgerow. 
How profusely they covered the sunny open slope un- 
der the weeping birch, " the lady of the woods" — and 
how often have I started to see the early innocent brown 
snake, who loved the spot as well as I did, winding 
along the young blossoms, or rustling amongst the 
fallen leaves ! There are primrose leaves already, and 
short green buds, but no flowers ; not even in that 
furze cradle so full of roots, where they used to blow 
as in a basket. No, my May, no rabbits ! no prim- 
roses ! We may as well get over the gate into the 
woody winding lane, which will bring us home again. 

Here we are making the best of our way between the 
old elms that arch so solemnly over head, dark and 
sheltered even now. They say that a spirit haunts this 



80 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY, &C. 

deep pool — a white lady without a head. I cannot say 
that I have seen her, often as I have paced this lane at 
deep midnight, to hear the nightingales, and look at 
the glow-worms ; — but there, better and rarer than a 
thousand ghosts, dearer even than nightingales or glow- 
worms, there is a primrose, the first of the year ; a 
tuft of primroses, springing in yonder sheltered nook, 
from the mossy roots of an old willow, and living again 
in the clear bright pool. Oh, how beautiful they are-— 
three fully blown and two bursting buds ! how glad I am 
I came this way ! They are not to be reached. Even 
Jack Rapley's love of the difficult and the unattainable 
would fail him here : May herself could not stand on 
that steep bank. So much the better. Who would 
wish to disturb them ? There they live in their inno- 
cent and fragrant beauty, sheltered from the storms, 
and rejoicing in 'the sunshine, and looking as if they 
could feel their happiness. Who would disturb them ? 
Oh, how glad I am I came this way home ! 



BKAMLEY MAYING. 



Mr. Geoffrey Crayon has, in his dehghtful but some- 
what fanciful writings, brought into general view many 
old sports and customs, some of which, indeed, still 
linger about the remote counties, familiar as local pe- 
culiarities to their inhabitants, whilst the greater part 
lie buried in books of the Elizabethan age, known only 
to the curious in English literature. One rural cus- 
tom, which would have enchanted him, and which 
prevails in the north of Hampshire, he has not noticed, 
and probably does not know. Did any of my readers 
ever hear of a Maying ? Let not any notions of chim- 
ney-sweepers soil the imagination of the gay Londoner ! 
A country Maying is altogether a different affair from 
the street exhibitions which mix so much pity with our 
mirth, and do the heart good, perhaps, but not by 
gladdening it. A country Maying is a meeting of the 
lads and lasses of two or three parishes, who assemble 
in c^tain erections of green boughs called May-houses, 



8^ BRAMLEY MAYING. 

to dance and- but I am going to tell all about it in 

due order, and must not forestall my description. 

Last year we went to Bramley Maying. There had 
been two or three such merry-makings before in that 
inaccessible neighbourhood, where the distance from 
large towns, the absence of great houses, and the con- 
sequent want of all decent roads, together with a coun- 
try of peculiar wildness and beauty, combine to produce 
a sort of modern Arcadia. We had intended to assist 
at a Maying in the forest of Pamber, thinking that the 
deep glades of that fine woodland scenery would be 
more congenial to the spirit of old English merriment, 
as it breathed more of Robin Hood and Maid Marian 
than a mere village green— to say nothing of its being 
of the two more accessible by four-footed and two- 
wheeled conveyances. But the Pamber day had been 
suffered to pass, and Bramley was the last Maying of 
the season. So to Bramley we went. 

As we had a considerable distance to go, we set out 
about noon, intending to return to dinner at six. Ne- 
ver was a day more congenial to a happy purpose ! It 
was a day made for country weddings and dances on the 
green — a day of dazzling light, of ardent sunshine fall- 
ing on hedgerows and meadows fresh with spring 
showers. You might almost see the grass grow and the 
leaves expand under the influence of that vivifying 



BRAMI^Y MAYING. 88 

warmth ; and we passed through the well-known and 
beautiful scenery of W. Park, and the pretty village of 
M., with a feeling of new admiration, as if we had ne- 
ver before felt their charms ; so gloriously did the trees 
in their young leaves, the grass springing beneath them, 
the patches of golden broom and deeper furze, the 
cottages covered with roses, the blooming orchards, 
and the light snowy sprays of the cherry-trees tossing 
their fair blossoms across the deep blue sky, pour upon 
the eye the full magic of colour. On we passed gaily 
and happily as far as we knew our way — perhaps a little 
farther, for the place of our destination was new to 
both of us, when we had the luck, good or bad, to 
meet with a director in the person of the butcher of M. 
My companion is known to most people within a circuit 
of ten miles ; so we had ready attention and most civil 

guidance from the man of beef and mutton a pro" 

digious person, almost as big as a prize ox, as rosy and 
jovial-looking as FalstafF himself, who was standing in 
the road with a slender shrewd-looking boy, apt and 
ready enough to have passed for the page. He soon 
gave us the proper, customary, and unintelligible di- 
rections as to lanes and turnings — first to the right, then 
to the left, then round Farmer Jennings's close, then 
across the Holy Brook, then to the right again — till at 
last, seeing us completely bewildered, he oflfered to 
stend the page, who was going our way for half a mile 

G 2 



04* BRAMLEY MAYING. 

to casry out a shoulder of veal, to attend us to that dis- 
tance as a guide ; an offer gratefully accepted by all 
parties, especially the boy, whom we relieved of his 
burthen and took up behind, where he swang in an odd 
but apparently satisfactory posture, between running 
and riding. Whilst he continued with us, we fell into 
no mistakes 4 but at last he and the shoulder of veal 
reached their place of destination ; and, after listening 
to a repetition, or perhaps a variation, of the turns 
right and left which were to conduct us to Bramley- 
green, we and our little guide parted. 

On we went, twisting and turning through a labyrinth 
of lanes, getting deeper and deeper every moment, till 
at last, after many doubtings, we became fairly con- 
vinced that we had lost our way. Not a soul was in the 
fields ; not a passenger in the road ; not a cottage by 
the roadside : so on we went — I am afraid to say how 
far (for when people have lost their way, they are not 
the most accurate measurers of distance)— till we came 
suddenly on a small farm-house, and saw at once that 
the road we had trodden led to that farm, and thither 
only. The solitary farm-house had one solitary inmate, 
a smiling middle-aged woman, who came to us and of- 
fered her services with the most alert civility :-— " All 
her boys and girls were gone to the Maying," she said, 
*^* and she remained to keep house." — " The Maying! 
We were near Bramley then?" — *' Only two miles the 



BRAMLEY MAYIN^Gf. 83 

nearest way across the fields- — were we going? — she 
would see to the horse- — we should soon be there, only 
over that style and then across that field, and then turn 

to the right, and then take the next turning no I 

the next but one to the left."-— Right and left again for 
two miles over those deserted fields ! —Right and left ! 
we shuddered at the words. " Is there no carriage- 
road? — Where are we?" — " At Silchester, close to the 
walls, only half a mile from the church." — " At Sil- 
chester !" and in ten minutes we had said a thankful 
farewell to our kind informant, had retraced our steps 
a little, had turned up another lane, and found our- 
selves at the foot of that commanding spot which anti- 
quaries call the amphitheatre, close under the walls of 
the Roman city, and in full view of an old acquaint- 
ance, the schoolmaster of Silchester, who happened to 
be there in his full glory, playing the part of Cicerone 
to a party of ladies, and explaining far more than he 
knows, or than any one knows, of streets, and gates, 
and sites of temples, whidi, by the bye, the worthy 
pedagogue usually calls parish-churches. I never was 
so glad to see him in my life, never thought he could 
have spoken with so much sense and eloquence as were 
comprised in the two words " straight forward," by 
which he answered our inquiry as to the road to 
Bramley. 

And forward we went by a way beautiful beyond de« 



86 BRAMLEY MAYING. 

scription : a road bounded on one side by every variety 
of meadow, and corn-field, and rich woodland; on the 
other by the rock-like walls of the old city, crowning 
an abrupt magnificent bank of turf, broken by frag- 
ments, crags as it were, detached from the ruin, and 
young trees, principally ash, with silver stems standing 
out in picturesque relief from the green slope, and it- 
self crowned with every sort of vegetation, from the 
rich festoons of briar and ivy, which garlanded its side, 
to the venerable oaks and beeches which nodded on its 
summit. I never saw any thing so fine in my life. To 
be sure, we nearly broke our necks. Even I, who, 
having been overset astonishingly often, without any 
harm happening, have acquired, from frequency of es- 
cape, the confidence of escaping, and the habit of not 
caring for that particular danger, which is, I suppose, 
what in a man and in battle would be called courage ; 
even I was glad enough to get out, and do all I could 
towards wriggling the gig round the rock-like stones, 
or sometimes helping to lift a wheel over the smaller 
impediments. We escaped that danger, and left the 
venerable walls behind us.— But I am losing my way 
here, too ; I must loiter on the road no longer. Our 
other delays of a broken bridge — a bog — another wrong 
turning—and a meeting with a loaded waggon, in a 
lane too narrow to pass — all this must remain untold- 
At last we reached a large farm-house at Bramley ; 



BRAMLEY MAYING^. 87 

another mile remained to the Green, but that was im- 
passable. Nobody thinks of riding at Bramley. The 
late lady of the manor, when at rare and uncertain in- 
tervals she resided for a few weeks at her house of 
B. R., used, in visiting her only neighbour, to drive 
her coach and four through her farmers' ploughed 
fields. We must walk : but the appearance of gay 
crowds of rustics, all passing along one path, gave as- 
surance that this time we should not lose our way. 
Oh, what a pretty path it was ! along one sunny 
sloping field, up and down, dotted with trees like a 
park ; then across a deep shady lane, with cows loiter- 
ing and cropping grass from the banks ; then up a long 
narrow meadow, in the very pride and vigour of its 
greenness, richly bordered by hedgerow timber, and 
terminating in the church-yard, and a little country 
church. 

Bramley church is well worth seeing. It contains 
that rare thing, a monument fine in itself, and finer in 
its situation. We had heard of it, and in spite of the 
many delays we had experienced, could not resist the 
temptation of sending one of the loiterers, who seemed 
to stand in the church yard as a sort of out-guard to 
the Maying, to the vicar's house for the key. Pre- 
pared as we had been to see something unusual, we 
were very much struck. The church is small, simple, 
decaying, almost ruinous ; but, as you turn from the 



88 BRAMLEY MAYIN&. 

entrance into the centre aisle, and advance up to the 
altar, your eye fails on a lofty recess, branching otit 
like a chapel on one side, and seen through a Gothic 
arch. It is almost paved with monumental brasses of 
the proud family of B., who have possessed the sur- 
rounding property from the time of the Conqueror ; 
and in the centre of the large open space stands a 
large monument, surrounded by steps, on which re- 
clines a figure of a dying man, with a beautiful woman 
leaning over him, full of a lovely look of anxiety and 
tenderness. The figures are very fine ; but that 
which makes the grace and glory of this remarkable 
piece of sculpture is its being backed by an immense 
Gothic window, nearly the whole size of the recess, en- 
tirely composed of old stained glass. I do not know 
the story which the artist, in the series of pictures, in- 
tended to represent ; but there they are, the gorgeous, 
glorious colours — reds, and purples, and greens, glow- 
ing like an anemone bed in the sunshine, or like one 
of the windows made of amethysts and rubies in the 
Arabian Tales, and throwing out the monumental 
figures with an effect almost magical. The parish 
elerk was at the Maying, and we had only an un- 
lettered rustic to conduct us, so that I do not even 
know the name of the sculptor — he must have a 
strange mingled feeling if ever he saw his work in its 
present home — delight that it looks so well, and re- 



BflAMLEY MAYING. 89 

gret that there is no one to look at it. That monu- 
ment alone was worth losing our way for. 

But cross two fields more, and up a quiet lane, and 
we are at the Maying, announced afar off by the 
merry sound of music, and the merrier clatter of 
childish voices. Here we are at the Green ; a little 
turfy spot, where three roads meet, close shut in by 
hedgerows, with a pretty white cottage, and its long 
slip of a garden at one angle. I had no expectation 
of scenery so compact, so like a glade in a forest ; it is 
quite a cabinet picture, with green trees for the frame. 
In the midst grows a superb horse-chesnut, in the full 
glory ^of its flowery pyramids, and from the trunk of 
the chesnut the May-houses commence* They are 
covered alleys built of green boughs, decorated with 
garlands and great bunches of flowers, the gayest that 
blow — -lilacs. Guelder-roses, pionies, tulips, stocks- 
hanging down like chandeliers among the dancers ; for 
of dancers, gay dark-eyed young girls in straw bon- 
nets and white gowns, and their lovers in their Sunday 
attire, the May-houses were full. The girls had 
mostly the look of extreme youth, and danced well 
and quietly like ladies — too much so : I should have 
been glad to see less elegance and more enjoyment; and 
their partners, though not altogether so graceful, were 
as decorous and as indifferent as real gentlemen. It 
was quite like a ball-room, as pretty and almost as 



90 BRAMLEY MAYING. 

dull. Outside was the fun. It is the outside, the 
upper gallery of the world, that has that good thing. 
There were children laughing, eating, trying to cheat, 
and being cheated, round an ancient and practised 
vender of oranges and gingerbread ; and on the other 
side of the tree lay a merry groupe of old men, in 
coats almost as old as themselves, and young ones in 
no coats at all, excluded from the dance by the dis- 
grace of a smock-frock. Who would have thought of 
etiquette finding its way into the May-houses ! That 
groupe would have suited Teniers ; it smoked and 
drank a little, but it laughed a great deal more. There 
were a few decent matronly looking women, too, sit- 
ting in a cluster ; and young mothers strolling about 
with infants in their arms ; and ragged boys peeping 
through the boughs at the dancers ; and the bright sun 
shining gloriously on all this innocent happiness. Oh 
what a pretty sight it was ! — worth losing our way for 
— worth losing our dinner— both which events hap- 
pened ; whilst a party of friends, who were to have 
joined us, were far more unlucky ; for they not only 
lost their way and their dinner, but rambled all day 
about the country, and never reached Bramley Maying. 



COUSIN MARY. 



About four years ago, passing a few days with the 
highly educated daughters of some friends in this 
neighbourhood, I found domesticated in the family a 
young lady, whom I shall call as they called her, 
Cousin Mary. She was about eighteen, not beautiful 
perhaps, but lovely certainly to the fullest extent of 
that loveliest word— as fresh as a rose ; as fair as a 
lily ; with lips like winter berries, dimpled, smiling 
lips ; and eyes of which nobody could tell the colour, 
they danced so incessantly in their own gay light. 
Her figure was tall, round, and slender ; exquisitely 
well proportioned it must have been, for in all atti- 
tudes, (and in her innocent gaiety, she was scarcely 
ever two minutes in the same) she was grace itself. 
She was, in short, the very picture of youth, health, 
and happiness. No one could see her without being 
prepossessed in her favour. I took a fancy to her the 
moment she entered the room ; and it increased every 
hour in spite of, or rather perhaps for, certain de- 



92 COUSIN Mary. 

ficiencies, which caused poor Cousin Mary to be held 
exceedingly cheap by her accomplished relatives. 

She was the youngest daughter of an officer of 
rank, dead long ago ; and his sickly widow having 
lost by death, or that other death, marriage, all her 
children but this, could not, from very fondness, re- 
solve to part with her darling for the purpose of ac- 
quiring the commonest instruction. She talked of it, 
indeed, now and then, but she only talked ; so that, in 
this age of universal education, Mary C. at eighteen 
exhibited the extraordinary phenomenon of a young 
woman of high family, whose acquirements were 
limited to reading, writing, needle-work, and the first 
rules of arithmetic. The effect of this let-alone sys- 
tem, combined with a careful seclusion from all im- 
proper society, and a perfect liberty in her country 
rambles, acting upon a mind of great power and ac- 
tivity, was the very reverse of what might have been 
predicted. It had produced not merely a delightful 
freshness and originality of manner and character, a 
piquant ignorance of those things of which one is tirei 
to death, but knowledge, positive, accurate, and va- 
rious knowledge. She was, to be sure, wholly un- 
accomplished ; knew nothing of quadrilles, though her 
every motion was dancing ; nor a note of music, 
though she used to warble like a bird sweet snatches 
of old songs, as she skipped up and down the house ; 



COUSIN MAHY. 9S 

aor of painting, except as her taste had been formed 
by a minute acquaintance with nature into an intense 
feeling of art. She had that real extra sense, an eye 
for colour, too, as well as an ear for music. Not one 
in tv/enty — not one in a hundred of our sketching and 
copying ladies could love and appreciate a picture 
where there was colour and mind, a picture by Claude, 
or by our English Claudes Wilson and HofHand, as 
she could — for she loved landscape best, because she 
understood it best — it was a portrait of which she 
knew the original. Then her needle was in her bands 
almost a pencil. I never knew such an embroidress — 
she would sit " printing her thoughts on lawn," till 
the delicate creation vied with the snowy tracery, the 
fantastic carving of hoar frost, the richness of Gothic 
architecture, or of that which so much resembles it, 
the luxuriant fancy of old point lace. That was her 
only accomplishment, and a rare artist she was — mus- 
lin and net were her canvas. She had no French 
either, not a word } no Italian ; but then her English 
was racy, unhackneyed, proper to the thought to a 
degree that only original thinking could give. She 
had not much reading, except of the Bible and 
Shakspeare, and Richardson's novels, in which she 
was learned ; but then her powers of observation were 
sharpened and quickened, in a very unusual degree, 
by the leisure and opportunity afforded for their de- 



94 COUSIN MARY« 

velopement, at a time of life when they are most acute. 
She had nothing to distract her mind. Her attention 
was always awake and alive. She was an excellent 
and curious naturalist, merely because she had gone 
into the fields with her eyes open ; and knew all the 
details of rural management, domestic or agricultural, 
as well as the peculiar habits and modes of thinking 
of the peasantry, simply because she had lived in the 
country, and made use of her ears. Then she was 
fanciful, recollective, new ; drew her images from the 
real objects, not from their shadows in books. In 
short, to listen to her, and the young ladies her com- 
panions, who, accomplished to the height, had trodden 
the education-mill till they all moved in one step, had 
lost sense in sound, and ideas in words, was enough to 
make us turn masters and governesses out of doors, 
and leave our daughters and grand-daughters to Mrs. 
C.'s system of non-instruction. I should have liked 
to meet with another specimen, just to ascertain whe- 
ther the peculiar charm and advantage arose from the 
quick and active mind of this fair Ignorant, or was 
really the natural and inevitable result of the training ; 
but, alas ! to find more than one unaccomplished 
young lady, in this accomplished age, is not to be 
hoped for. So I admired and envied ; and her fair 
kinswomen pitied and scorned, and tried to teach ; and 
Mary, never made for a learner^ and as full of animal 

7 



COUSIN MARY. 95 

spirits as a school-boy in the hohdays, sang, and 
laughed, and skipped about from morning to night. 

It must be confessed, as a counter-balance to her 
other perfections, that the dear Cousin Mary was, as 
far as great natural modesty and an occasional touch of 
shyness would let her, the least in the world of a romp ! 
She loved to toss about children, to jump over stiles, 
to scramble through hedges, to climb trees ; and some 
of her knowledge of plants and birds may certainly have 
arisen from her delight in these boyish amusements. 
And which of us has not found that the strongest, the 
healthiest, and most flourishing acquirement has arisen 
from pleasure or accident, has been in a manner self- 
sown, like an oak of the forest ? — Oh she was a sad 
romp ; as skittish as a wild colt, as uncertain as a but- 
terfly, as uncatchable as a swallow ! But her great 
personal beauty, the charm, grace, and lightness of her 
movements, and above all, her evident innocence of 
heart, were bribes to indulgence which no one could 
withstand. I never heard her blamed by any human 
being. The perfect unrestraint of her attitudes, and 
the exquisite symmetry of her form, would have ren- 
dered her an invaluable study for a painter. Her daily 
doings would have formed a series of pictures. I have 
seen her scudding through a shallow rivulet, with her 
petticoats caught up just a little above the ancle, like a 
young Diana, and a bounding? skimming, enjoying 



B6 COUSIN MARY. 

motion, as if native to the element, which miglit have 
become a Naiad. I liave seen her on the topmost round 
of a ladder, with one foot on the roof of a house, fling- 
ing down the grapes that no one else had nerve enough 
to reach, laughing, and garlanded, and crowned with 
vine-leaves, like a Bacchante. But the prettiest com- 
bination of circumstances under which I ever saw her, 
was driving a donkey cart up a hill one sunny windy 
day, in September. It was a gay party of young wo- 
men, some walking, some in open carriages of different 
descriptions, bent to see a celebrated prospect from a 
hill called the Ridges. The ascent was by a steep nar- 
row lane, cut deeply between sand-banks, crowned with 
high, feathery hedges. The road and its picturesque 
banks lay bathed in the golden sunshine, whilst the au- 
tumnal sky, intensely blue, appeared at the top as 
through an arch. The hill was so steep that we had all 
dismounted, and left our different vehicles in charge of 
the servants below ; but Mary, to whom, as incom- 
parably the best charioteer, the conduct of a certain 
non-descript machine, a sort of donkey curricle, had 
fallen, determined to drive a delicate little girl, who was 
afraid of the walk, to the top of the eminence. She 
jumped out for the purpose, and we followed, watch- 
ing and admiring her as she won her way up the hill : 
now tugging at the donkeys in front with her bright 
face towards them and us, and springing along back- 



COUSIN MARY. 97 

wards— now pushing the chaise from behind — now 
running by the side of her steeds, patting and caressing 
them— now soothing the half- frightened child — now 
laughing, nodding, and shaking her little whip at us — 
darting about like some winged creature — till at last she 
stopped at the top of the ascent, and stood for a mo- 
ment on the summit, her straw bonnet blown back, and 
held on only by the strings ; her brown hair playing on 
the wind in long natural ringlets ; her complexion be- 
coming every moment more splendid from exertion, 
redder and whiter ; her eyes and her smile brightening 
and dimpling ; her figure in its simple white gown, 
strongly relieved by the deep blue sky, and her whole 
form seeming to dilate before our eyes. There she 
stood under the arch formed by two meeting elms, a 
Hebe, a Psyche, a perfect goddess of youth and joy. 
The Ridges are very fine things altogether, especially 
the part to which we were bound, a turfy breezy 
spot, sinking down abruptly like a rock into a wild 
foreground of heath and forest, with a magnificent 
command of distant objects ; — but we saw nothing that 
day like the figure on the top of the hill. 

After this I lost sight of her for a long time. She 
was called suddenly home by the dangerous illness of 
her mother, who, after languishing for some months, 
died ; and Mary went to live with a sister much older 
than herself, and richly married in a manufacturing 

H 



98 COUSIN MARY. 

town, where she languished in smoke, confinement, 
dependence, and display, (for her sister was a match- 
making lady, a manoeuvrer,) for about a twelvemonth. 
She then left her house and went into Wales — as a go- 
verness ! Imagine the astonishment caused by this in- 
telligence amongst us all; for I myself, though ad- 
miring the untaught damsel almost as much as I loved 
her, should certainly never have dreamed of her as a 
teacher. However, she remained in the rich baronet's 
family where she had commenced her vocation. They 
liked her apparently, — there she was ; and again no- 
thing was heard of her for many months, until, happen- 
ing to call on the friends at whose house I had ori- 
ginally met her, I espied her fair blooming face, a rose 
amongst roses, at the drawing-room window, — and in- 
stantly with the speed of light was met and embraced 
by her at the hall-door. 

There was not the slightest perceptible difference in 
her deportment. She still bounded like a fawn, and 
laughed and clapped her hands like an infant. She was 
not a day older, or graver, or wiser, since we parted. 
Her post of tutoress had at least done her no harm, 
whatever might have been the case with her pupils. 
The more I looked at her the more I wondered ; and 
after our mutual expressions of pleasure had a little 
subsided, I could not resist the temptation of saying 
*— " So you are really a governess ?"—'' Yes."— ^" And 



COUSIN MARY. 99 

you continue in the same family ?" — " Yes." — " And 
you like your post?" — " O yes! yes!"— But, my dear 
Mary, what could induce you to go ?" — " Why, they 
wanted a governess, so I went," — " But what could 
induce them to keep you ?" The perfect gravity and 
earnestness with which this question was put set her 
laughing, and the laugh was echoed back from a group 
at the end of the room, which I had not before noticed 
— an elegant man in the prime of life showing a port- 
folio of rare prints to a fine girl of twelve, and a rosy 
boy of seven, evidently his children. " Why did they 
keep me ? Ask them," replied Mary, turning towards 
them with an arch smile. " We kept her to teach her 
ourselves," said the young lady. '* We kept her to 
play cricket with us," said her brother. " We kept 
her to marry," said the gentleman, advancing gaily to 
shake hands with me. " She was a bad governess, 
perhaps ; but she is an excellent wife— that is her true 
vocation." And so it is. She is, indeed, an excellent 
wife ; and assuredly a most fortunate one. I never saw 
happiness so sparkling or so glowing ; never saw such 
devotion to a bride, or such fondness for a step-mother, 
as Sir W. S. and his lovely children show to the sweet 
Cousin Mary, 



H 2 



WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 



VIOLETING. 

March 27th. — It is a dull grey morning, with a dewy 
feeling in the air ; fresh, but not windy ; cool, but not 
cold; — the very day for a person newly arrived from 
the heat, the glare, the noise, and the fever of London, 
to plunge into the remotest labyrinths of the country, 
and regain the repose of mind, the calmness of heart, 
which has been lost in that great Babel. I must go 
violeting — it is a necessity — and I must go alone : the 
sound of a voice, even my Lizzy's, the touch of May- 
flower's head, even the bounding of her elastic foot, 
would disturb the serenity of feeling which I am trying 
to recover. I shall go quite alone, with my little 
basket, twisted like a bee-hive, which I love so well, 
because she gave it to me, and keep sacred to violets 
and to those whom I love ; and I shall get out of the 
high road the moment I can. I would not meet any 
one just now, even of those whom I best like to meet. 



VIOLETING. 101 

Ha! — Is not that group — a gentleman on a blood 
horse, a lady keeping pace with him so gracefully and 
easily — see how prettily her veil waves in the wind 
created by her own rapid motion ! — and that gay, gal- 
lant boy, on the gallant white Arabian, curveting at 
their side, but ready to spring before them every instant 
—is not that chivalrous-looking party, Mr. and Mrs. 
M, and dear B. ? No ! the servant is in a different li- 
very. It is some of the ducal family, and one of their 
young Etonians. I may go on. I shall meet no one 
now ; for I have fairly left the road, and am crossing 
the lea by one of those wandering paths, amidst the 
gorse and the heath and the low broom, whicb the sheep 
and lambs have made — a path turfy, elastic, thymy, and 
sweet even at this season. 

We have the good fortune to live in an unenclosed 
parish, and may thank the wise obstinacy of two or 
three sturdy farmers, and the lucky unpopularity of a 
ranting madcap lord of the manor, for preserving the 
delicious green patches, the islets of wilderness amidst 
cultivation, which form perhaps the peculiar beauty of 
English scenery. The common that I am passing now 
— the lea, as it is called — is one of the loveliest of these 
favoured spots. It is a little sheltered scene, retiring, 
as it were, from the village ; sunk amidst higher lands 
— hills would be almost too grand a word ; edged on 
one side by one gay high Toad, and intersected by 



102 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

another ; and surrounded by a most picturesque con- 
fusion of meadows, cottages, farms, and orchards ; 
with a great pond in one corner, unusually bright 
and clear, giving a delightful cheerfulness and day- 
light to the picture. The swallows haunt that pond ; 
so do the children. There is a merry group round it 
now ; I have seldom seen it without one. Children 
love watei", clear, bright, sparkling water; it excites and 
feeds their curiosity ; it is motion and life. 

The path that I am treading leads to a less lively 
spot, to that large heavy building on one side of the 
common, whose solid wings, jutting out far beyond 
the main body, occupy three sides of a square, and 
give a cold shadowy look to the court. On one side is 
a gloomy garden, with an old man digging in it, laid 
out in straight dark beds of vegetables, potatoes, cab- 
bages, onions, beans ; all earthy and mouldy as a 
newly dug grave. Not a flower or a flowering shrub ! 
Not a rose-tree or a currant-bush ! Nothing but for 
sober melancholy use. Oh how diflferent from the 
long irregular slips of the cottage-gardens, with their 
gay bunches of polyanthuses and crocuses, their wall- 
flowers, sending sweet odours through the narrow 
casement, and their gooseberry-trees, bursting into a 
brillimicy of leaf, whose vivid greenness has the effect 
of a blossom on the eye ! Oh how different ! On 
tlie ^ther side of this gloomy abode is a meadow of 



VJOIiETING. 103 

that deep intense emerald hue, which denotes the pre- 
sence of stagnant water, surrounded by willows at 
regular distances, and, like the garden, separated from 
the common by a wide, moat-like ditch. That is the 
parish workhouse. All about it is solid, substantial, 
useful ; — but so dreary ! so cold ! so dark ! There 
are children in the court, and yet all is silent. I always 
hurry past that place, as if it were a prison. Restraint, 
sickness, age, extreme poverty, misery, which I have 
no power to remove or alleviate, — these are the ideas, 
the feelings, which the sight of those walls excites ; 
yet, perhaps, if not certainly, they contain less of that 
extreme desolation than the morbid fancy is apt to paint. 
There will be found order, cleanliness, food, clothing, 
warmth, refuge for the homeless, medicine and attend- 
ance for the sick, rest and sufficiency for old age, and 
sympathy, the true and active sympathy which the 
poor show to the poor, for the unhappy. There may 
be worse places than a parish workhouse — and yet I 
hurry past it. The feeling, the prejudice will not be 
controlled. 

The end of the dreary garden edges off into a close- 
sheltered lane, wandering and winding, like a rivulet, 
in gentle " sinuosities," (to use a word once applied 
by Mr. Wilberforce to the Thames at Henley,) amidst 
green meadows, all alive with cattle, sheep, and beau- 
tiful lambs, in the very spring and pride of their tot- 



104 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY^ 

tering prettiness : or fields of arable land, more lively 
still with troops of stooping bean-setters, women and 
children, in all varieties of costume and colour ; and 
ploughs and harrows, with their whistling boys and 
steady carters, going through, with a slow and plod- 
ding industry, the main business of this busy season. 
What work bean-setting is ! What a reverse of the 
position assigned to man to distinguish him from the 
beasts of the field ! Only think of stooping for six, 
eight, ten hours a day, drilling holes in the earth with 
a little stick, and then dropping in the beans one by 
one. They are paid according to the quantity they 
plant ; and some of the poor women used to be ac- 
cused of clumping them — that is to say, dropping 
more than one bean into a hole. It seems to me, 
considering the temptation, that not to clump is to be 
at the very pinnacle of human virtue. 

Another turn in the lane, and we come to the old 
house standing amongst the high elms — the old farm- 
house, which always, I don't know why, carries back 
my imagination to Shakspeare's days. It is a long^ 
low, irregular building, with one room, at an angle 
from the house, covered with ivy, fine white-veined 
ivy ; the first floor of the main building projecting and 
supported by oaken beams, and one of the windows 
below, with its old casement and long narrow panes, 
forming the half of a shallow hexagon. A porch, 



VIOLETING. 105 

with seats in it, surmounted by a pinnacle, pointed 
roofs, and clustered chimneys, complete the picture. 
Alas ! it is little else but a picture ! The very walls 
are crumbling to decay under a careless landlord and 
a ruined tenant. 

Now a few yards farther, and I reach the bank. 
Ah ! I smell them already — their exquisite perfume 
steams and lingers in this moist heavy air. Through 
this little gate, and along the green south bank of this 
green wheat-field, and they burst upon me, the lovely 
violets, in tenfold loveliness ! The ground is covered 
with them, white and purple, enamelling the short 
dewy grass, looking but the more vividly coloured 
under the dull, leaden sky. There they lie by hun- 
dreds, by thousands. In former years I have been 
used to watch them from the tiny green bud, till one 
or two stole into bloom. They never came on me 
before in such a sudden and luxuriant glory of simple 
beauty, —and I do really owe one pure and genuine 
pleasure to feverish London ! How beautifully they 
are placed too, on this sloping bank, with the palm 
branches waving over them, full of early bees, and 
mixing their honeyed scent with the more delicate 
violet odour ! How transparent and smooth and 
lusty are the branches, full of sap and life ! And 
there, just by the old mossy root, is a superb tuft of 
primroses, with a yellow butterfly floating over them^ 



106 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

and looking like a flower lifted up by the air. What 
happiness to sit on this turfy knoll, and fill my basket 
with the blossoms ! What a renewal of heart and 
mind ! To sit in such a scene of peace and sweetness 
is again to be fearless and gay and gentle as a child. 
Then it is that thought becomes poetry, and feeling 
religion. Then it is that we are happy and good. 
Oh that my whole life could pass so, floating on bliss- 
ful and innocent sensation, enjoying in peace and 
gratitude the common blessings of nature, thankful 
above all for the simple habits, the healthful tempera- 
ment, which render them so dear ! Alas ! who may 
dare expect a life of such happiness ? But I can at 
least snatch and prolong the fleeting pleasure, can fill 
my basket with pure flowers, and my heart with pure 
thoughts ; can gladden my little home with their 
sweetness ; can divide my treasures with one, a dear 
one, who cannot seek them ; can see them when I shut 
my eyes ; and dream of them when I fall asleep. 



THE TALKING LADY. 



Ben Jonson has a play called The Silent Woman, 
who turns out, as might be expected, to be no woman 
at all — nothing, as Master Slender said, but " a 
great lubberly boy ;" thereby, as I apprehend, discour- 
teously presuming that a silent woman is a non-entity. 
If the learned dramatist, thus happily prepared and 
predisposed, had happened to fall in with such a spe- 
cimen of female loquacity as I have just parted with, 
he might perhaps have given us a pendant to his pic- 
ture in the Talking Lady. Pity but he had ! He 
would have done her justice, which I could not at any 
time, least of all now : I am too much stunned ; too 
much like one escaped from a belfry on a coronation 
day. I am just resting from the fatigue of four days' 
hard listening ;— four snowy, sleety, rainy days — day§i 
of every variety of falling weather, all of them toa 
bad to admit the possibility that any petticoated thing, 
were she as hardy as a Scotch fir, should stir out,— 
four days chained by " sad civility" to that fire-sidej 



lOS THE TALKING LADY. 

once so quiet, and again — cheering thought ! — again I 
trust to be so, when the echo of that visitor's incessant 
tongue shall have died away. 

The visitor in question is a very excellent and re- 
spectable elderly lady, upright in mind and body, with 
a figure that does honour to her dancing-master, a 
face exceedingly well preserved, wrinkled and freckled, 
but still fair, and an air of gentility over her whole 
person, which is not in the least affected by her out-of- 
fashion garb. She could never be taken for any thing 
but a woman of family, and perhaps she could as little 
pass for any other than an old maid. She took us in 
her way from London to the west of England ; and 
being, as she wrote, " not quite well, not equal to much 
company, prayed that no other guest might be ad- 
mitted, so that she might have the pleasure of our con- 
versation all to herself," — {Ours ! as if it were possible 
for any of us to slide in a word edgewise !) — " and 
especially enjoy the gratification of talking over old 
times with the master of the house, her countryman." 
Such was the promise of her letter, and to the letter it 
has been kept. All the news and scandal of a large 
county forty years ago, and a hundred years before, 
and ever since, all the marriages, deaths, births, elope- 
ments, lawsuits, and casualties of her own times, her 
father's, grandfather's, great-grandfather's, nephew's, 
and grand-nephew's, has she detailed with a minute- 



THE TALKING LADY. 109 

ness, an accuracy, a prodigality of learning, a profuse- 
ness of proper names, a pedantry of locality, which 
would excite the envy of a county historian, a king at 
arms, or even a Scotch novelist. Her knowledge is 
astonishing ; but the most astonishing part of all is 
how she came by that knowledge. It should seem, to 
listen to her, as if, at some time of her life, she must 
have listened herself; and yet her countryman de- 
clares, that in the forty years he has known her, no 
such event has occurred ; and she knows new news 
too ! It must be intuition. 

The manner of her speech has little remarkable. 
It is rather old-fashioned and provincial, but perfectly 
lady-like, low and gentle, and not seeming so fast as 
it is ; like the great pedestrians she clears her ground 
easily, and never seems to use any exertion ; yet " I 
would my horse had the speed of her tongue, and so 
good a continuer." She will talk you sixteen hours a 
day for twenty days together, and not deduct one poor 
five minutes for halts and baiting time. Talking, 
sheer talking, is meat and drink and sleep to her. 
She likes nothing else. Eating is a sad interruption. 
For the tea-table she has some toleration ; but dinner, 
with its clatter of plates and jingle of knives and 
forks, dinner is her abhorrence. Nor are the other 
common pursuits of life more in her favour. Walking 
exhausts the breath that might be better employed. 



110 THE TALKING LADY. 

Dancing is a noisy diversion, and singing is worse ; 
she cannot endure any music, except the long, grand, 
dull concerto, which nobody thinks of listening to. 
Reading and chess she classes together as silent bar- 
barisms, unworthy of a social and civilised people. 
Cards, too, have their faults ; there is a rivalry, a 
mute eloquence in those four aces, that leads away the 
attention ; besides, partners will sometimes scold ; so 
she never plays at cards ; and upon the strength of 
this abstinence had very nearly passed for serious, till 
it was discovered that she could not abide a long ser- 
mon. She always looks out for the shortest preacher, 
and never went to above one Bible Meeting in her 
life. — " Such speeches !" quoth she : " I thought the 
men never meant to have done. People have great 
need of patience." Plays, of course, she abhors, and 
operas, and mobs, aind all things that will be heard, 
especially children ; though for babies, particularly 
when asleep, for dogs and pictures, and such silent in- 
telligences as serve to talk of and talk to, she has a 
considerable partiality ; and an agreeable and gra- 
cious flattery to the mamas and other owners of these 
pretty dumb things is a very usual introduction to 
her miscellaneous harangues. The matter of these 
orations is inconceivably various. Perhaps the local 
and genealogical anecdotes, the sort of supplement to 
the history of *****sliire, may be her strongest point ; 



THE TAi^KING LADY. Ill 

but she shines almost as much in medicine and house- 
wifery. Her medical dissertations savour a little of 
that particular branch of the science called quackery. 
She has a specific against almost every disease to 
which the human frame is liable ; and is terribly 
prosy and unmerciful in her symptoms. Her cures 
kill. In housekeeping, her notions resemble those of 
other verbal managers ; full of economy and retrench- 
ment, with a leaning towards reform, though she loves 
so well to declaim on the abuses in the cook's depart- 
ment, that I am not sure that she would very heartily 
thank any radical who should sweep them quite away. 
For the rest, her system sounds very finely in theory, 
but rather fails in practice. Her recipes would be 
capital, only that some way or other they do not eat 
well ; her preserves seldom keep ; and her sweet wines 
are sure to turn sour. These are certainly her fa- 
vourite topics ; but any one will do. Allude to some 
anecdote of the neighbourhood, and she forthwith 
treats you with as many parallel passages as are to be 
found in an air with variations. Take up a new pub- 
lication, and she is equally at home there ; for though 
she knows little of books, she has, in the course of an 
up-and-down life, met with a good many authors, and 
teazes and provokes you by telling of them precisely 
what you do not care to hear, the maiden names of 
their wives, and the christian names of their daugh- 



11^ THE TALKING LADY. 

ters, and into what families their sisters and cousins 
married, and in what towns they have lived, what 
streets, and what numbers. Boswell himself never 
drew up the table of Dr. Johnson's Fleet-street courts 
with greater care, than she made out to me the suc- 
cessive residences of P. P. Esq., author of a tract on 
the French Revolution, and a pamphlet on the Poor 
Laws. The very weather is not a safe subject. Her 
memory is a perpetual register of hard frosts, and 
long droughts and high winds, and terrible storms, 
with all the evils that followed in their train, and all 
the personal events connected with them ; so that if 
you happen to remark that clouds are come up, and 
you fear it may rain, she replies, " Aye, it is just 
such a morning as three-and-thirty years ago, when 
my poor cousin was married — you remember my cou- 
sin Barbara — she married so and so, the son of so and 
so ;" and then comes the whole pedigree of the bride- 
groom ; the amount of the settlements, and the reading 
and signing them over night ; a description of the 
wedding-dresses, in the style of Sir Charles Grandi- 
son, and how much the bride's gown cost per yard ; 
the names, residences, and a short subsequent history 
of the bridemaids and men, the gentleman who gave 
the bride away, and the clergyman who performed the 
ceremony, with a learned antiquarian digression rela- 
tive to the church ; then the setting out in procession ; 



THE TALKING LADY. 113 

the marriage ; the kissing ; the crying ; the breakfast- 
ing; the drawing the cake through the ring; and, 
finally, the bridal excursion, which brings us back 
again at an hour's end to the starting-post, the weather, 
and the whole story of the sopping, the drying, the 
clothes-spoiling, the cold-catching, and all the small 
evils of a summer shower. By this time it rains, and 
she sits down to a pathetic see- saw of conjectures on the 
chance of Mrs. Smith's having set out for her daily walk, 
or the possibility that Dr. Brown may have ventured to 
visit his patients in his gig, and the certainty that Lady 
Green's new housemaid would come from London on 
the outside of the coach. 

With all this intolerable prosing, she is actually 
reckoned a pleasant woman ! Her acquaintance in the 
great manufacturing town where she usually resides is 
very large, which may partly account for the misnomer. 
Her conversation is of a sort to bear dividing. Besides, 
there is, in all large societies, an instinctive sympathy 
which directs each individual to the companion most 
congenial to his humour. Doubtless, her associates 
deserve the old French compliment, " lis ont tons un 
grand talent pour le silence," Parcelled out amongst 
some seventy or eighty, there may even be some savour 
in her talk. It is the' tete-a-tete that kills, or the small 
fire-side circle of three or four, where only one can 
speak, and all the rest must seem to listen — seem! did 

I 



114 tHE TALKING LADY. 

I say? — must listen in good earnest. Hot&pur's ex- 
pedient in a similar situation of crying " Hem ! Go to," 
and marking not a word, will not do here ; compared 
to her, Owen Glendower was no conj uror. She has 
the eye of a hawk, and detects a wandering glance, an 
incipient yawn, the slightest movement of impatience. 
The very needle must be quiet. If a pair of scissors do 
but wag, she is affronted, draws herself up, breaks off 
in the middle of a story, of a sentence, of a word, and 
the unlucky culprit must, for civility's sake, summon a 
more than Spartan fortitude, and beg the torturer to 
resume her torments- — " That, that is the unkindest 
cut of all !" I wonder, if she had happened to have 
married, how many husbands she would have talked to 
death. It is certain that none of her relations are long- 
lived after she comes to reside with them. Father^ 
mother, uncle, sister, brother, two nephews, and one 
niece, all these have successively passed away, though 
a healthy race, and with no visible disorder— except 
but we must not be uncharitable. They might 
have died, though she had been born dumb : — " It is 
an accident that happens every day." Since the decease 
of her last nephew, she attempted to form an establish*^ 
ment with a widow lady, for the sake, as they both 
said, of the comfort of society. But — strange miscal- 
culation I -r-she was a talker too! They parted in a 



THE TALKING LADY. 115 

And we also have parted. I am just returned from 
escorting her to the coach, wliich is to convey her two 
hundred miles westward ; and I have still the murmur 
of her adieux resounding in my ears, like the indistinct 
hum of the air on a frosty night. It was curious to see 
how, almost simultaneously, her mournful adieux shaded 
into cheerful salutations of her new comrades, the pas- 
sengers in the mail. Poor souls ! Little does the civil 
young lad who made way for her, or the fat lady, his 
mama, who with pains and inconvenience made roomi 
for her, or the grumpy gentleman in the opposite cor- 
ner, xvho, after some di&pute, was at length won to 

admit her dressing-box, little do they suspect what 

is to befall them. Two hundred miles ! and slie never 
sleeps in a carriage! Well, patience be with them, 
and comfort and peace ! A pleasant journey to them ! 
And to her all happiness ! She is a most kind and ex- 
cellent person, one for whom I would do any thing in 
my poor power — ay, even were it to listen to her ano- 
ther four days. 



I 2 



E L. L E" N, 



A YEEY small gift may sometimes cause great pleasure, 
I have just received a present which has delighted me 
more than any thing ever bestowed on me by friends or 
fortune. It is-— — But my readers shall guess what it 
is ; and, that they may be enabled to do so, I must tell 
them a story. 

Charlotte and Ellen Page were the twin daughters of 
the rector of N., a small town in Dorsetshire. They 
were his only children, having lost their mother shortly 
after their birth ; and, as their father was highly con- 
nected, and still more highly accomplished, and pos- 
sessed good church preferment with a considerable pri- 
vate fortune, they were reared and educated in the 
most liberal and expensive style* Whilst mere infants^ 
they had been uncommonly beautiful, and as remarka- 
bly alike as occasionally happens with twin sisters, dis™ 
tinguished only by some ornament of dress. Their 
yery nurse^ as she used to boast^ could hardly tell her 
pretty ** couplets'' apart^ so exactly alike were the 



ELLEN. 117 

soft blue eyes, the rosy cheeks, the chefry lips, and the 
curly light hair. Change the turquoise necklace for the 
coral, and nurse herself would not know Charlotte from 
Ellen. This pretty puzzle, this inconveniencej of 
which mamas and aunts and grandmamas love to com- 
plain, did not last long. Either from a concealed fall^ 
or from original delicacy of habit, the little Ellen faded 
and drooped almost into deformity. There was no vi- 
sible defect in her shape, except a slight and almost im- 
perceptible lameness when in quick motion ; but there 
was the marked and peculiar look in the features, the 
languor and debility, and above all the distressing con- 
sciousness attendant upon imperfect formation ; and, 
at the age of twenty years, the contrast between the 
sisters was even more striking than the likeness had 
been at two. 

Charlotte was a fine, robust, noble-looking girl, ra- 
ther above the middle height ; her eyes and complexion 
sparkled and glowed with life and health, her rosy lips 
seemed to be made for smiles, and her glossy brown 
hair played in natural ringlets round her dimpled face» 
Her manner was a happy mixture of the playful and the 
gentle; frank, innocent^ and fearless, she relied with. 
a sweet confidence on every body's kindness, was ready 
to be pleased, and secure of pleasing. Her artlessness 
and naivete had great success in society, especial] j,->ag 
they were united with the most perfect good-breeding.^ 



118 ELLJEH. 

and €0nsiderable quickness and talent. Her musical 
powers were of the most delightful kind ; she sang exr 
qiiiisitely, joining, to great taste and science^ a life, and 
freedom, and buoyancy, quite unusual in that artificial 
personage, a young lady. Her clear and ringing notes 
had the effect of a milk-maid's song, as if a mere ebul- 
lition of animal spirits ; there was no resisting the con- 
tagion of Charlotte's glee. She was a general favourite, 
and above all a favourite at home, — the apple of her 
father's eye, the pride and ornament of his house, and 
the delight and comfort of his life. The two children 
had been so much alike, and born so nearly together, 
that the precedence in age had never been definitively 
settled ; but that point seemed very early to decide it- 
self. Unintentionally, as it were, Charlotte took the 
lead, gave invitations, received visitors, sate at the 
head of the table, became in fact and in name Miss 
Page, while her sister continued Miss Ellen. 

Poor Ellen ! she was short, and thin, and sickly, and 
pale, with no personal charm but the tender expression 
of ber blue eyes and the timid sweetness of her coun-. 
tenance. The resemblance to her sister had vanished 
altogether, except when very rarely some strong emo- 
tion of pleasure, a word of praise, or a look of kind- 
ness from her father, would bring a smile and a blusk 
ato;ace into her face, and lighten it up like a sunbeam ♦ 
Then, for a passing moment, she was like Gharlofrte, 



ELLEPf. 119 

-and even prettier, — there was so much of mind, of soul^ 
hi the transitory beauty. In manner she was unchange- 
ably gentle alid distressingly shy, shy even to awkward" 
ness. Shame and fear clung to her like her shadow* 
In company she could neither sing, nor play, nor 
speak, without trembling, especially when her father 
was present. Her awe of him was inexpressible. Mr. 
Page was a man of considerable talent and acquire- 
ment, of polished and elegant manners, and great con- 
versational power, — quick, ready, and sarcastic. He 
never condescended to scold ; but there was something 
very formidable in the keen glance, and the cutting 
jest, to which poor Ellen's want of presence of mind 
frequently exposed her, — something from which she 
shrank into the very earth. He was a good man too, 
and a kind father — at least he meant to be so,^ — atten- 
tive to her health and comfort, strictly impartial in fa- 
vours and presents, in pocket-money and amusements, 
making no difference between the twins, except that 
which he could not help, the difference in his love. 
But, to an apprehensive temper and sin affectionate 
heart, that was every thing; and, whilst Charlotte 
flourished and blossomed like a rose in the sunshine^ 
Ellen snekened and withered like the sa;me plant in the 
shade. 

Mr. Page lost much enjoyment by this unfortunate 
partiality ; for lie had ta^ste enough to have particularly 



120 ELLEN, 

valued the high endowments which formed the delight 
of the few friends to whom his daughter was intimately 
known. To them not only her varied and accurate ac- 
quirements, but her singular richness of mind, her 
grace and propriety of expression and fertility of idea^ 
joined to the most perfect ignorance of her own supe- 
riority, rendered her an object of as much admiration 
as interest. In poetry, especially, her justness of taste 
and quickness of feeling were almost unrivalled. She 
was no poetess herself, never, I believe, even ventured 
to compose a sonnet ; and her enjoyment of high lite- 
rature was certainly the keener for that wise abstinence 
from a vain competition. Her admiration was really 
nvorth having. The tears w^ould come into her eyes, 
the book would fall from her hand, and she would sit 
lost in ecstasy over some noble passage, till praise, 
worthy of the theme, would burst in unconscious elo- 
quence from her lips. 

But the real charm of Ellen Page lay in the softness 
of her heart and the generosity of her character : no 
human being was ever so free from selfishness, in all its 
varied and clinging forms. She literally forgot herself 
in her pure and ardent sympathy with all whom she 
loved, or all to whom she could be useful. There were 
no limits to her indulgence, no bounds to her candour. 
Shy and timid as she was, she forgot her fears to plead 
for the innocent, or the penitent; or even the guilty. 



ELLEN. 1^1 

She was the excuser-general of the neighbourhood, 
turned every speech and action the sunny side without, 
and often in her good-natured acuteness hit on the real 
principle of action, when the cunning and the worldly- 
wise and the cynical, and such as look only for bad mo- 
tives, had failed. She had, too, that rare quality, a 
genuine sympathy not only with the sorrowful, (there 
is a pride in that feeling, a superiority, — we have all 
plenty of that,) but with the happy. She could smile 
with those who smiled as well as weep with those who 
wept, and rejoice in a success to which she had not con- 
tributed, protected from every touch of envy, no less 
by her noble spirit than by her pure humility : she never 
thought of herselft 

So constituted, it may be imagined that she was, to 
all who really knew her, an object of intense admiration 
and love. Servants, children, poor people, all adored 
Miss Ellen. She had other friends in her own rank of 
life, who had found her out— many ; but her chief 
friend, her principal admirer, she who loved her with 
the most entire affection, and looked up to her with the 
most devoted respect, was her sister. Never was the 
strong and lovely tie of twin-sisterhood more closely 
knit than in these two charming young women. Ellen 
looked on her favoured sister with a pure and unjealous 
delight that made its own happiness, a spirit of candour 
and of justice that never permitted her to cast a shade 



122 ELLEN. 

ol* blame on the sweet object of her father's partiality : 
she never indeed blamed him, it seemed to her so na- 
tural that every one should prefer her sister. Charlotte, 
on the other hand, used all her infiuence for Ellen, 
protected and defended her, and was half- tempted to 
murmur at an affection which she would have valued 
more, if shared equally with that deaf friend. Thus 
they lived in peace and harmony, Charlotte's bolder 
temper and higher spirits leading and guiding in all 
common points, whilst on the more important she im- 
plicitly yielded to Ellen's judgment. But, when they 
had reached their twenty-first year, a gre^at evil threat- 
ened one of the sisters, arising (strange to say) from th^ 
other's happiness. Charlotte, the reigning helle of an 
extensive and affluent neighbourhood, had had almost 
as many suitors as Penelope ; but, light-hearted, happy 
at home, constantly busy and gay, she had taken no 
thought of love, and always struck me as a Very likely 
subject for an: old maid : yet her time Came at last. A 
young man, the very reverse of herself, pale, thought- 
ful, gentlemanlike, and melancholy, wooed and v^on 
our fkir Enphrosyne, He was the second son of a no- 
ble house, and bred to the church ; and it was agreed 
between the fathers, that, as soon as he shouM be or- 
dained, (for he still wanted some months of the neces- 
sary age,) and settled in a family living held for him 
by a friend, the young couple should be married. 



ia the mean while Mr. Page, who had recently suc- 
ceeded to some property in Ireland, found it necessary 
to go thither for a short time ; and, unwilling to take 
his daughters with him, as his estate lay in the dis- 
turhed districts, he indidged us with their company 
during his absence. They came to us in the bursting 
spring-time, on the very same day with the nightingale ; 
the country was new to them, and they were delighted 
with the scenery and with our cottage life. We, on our 
part, were enchanted with our young guests. Charlotte 
was certainly the most amiable of enamoured damsels, 
for love with her was but a more sparkling and smiling 
form of happiness ; — all that there was of care and fear 
in this, attachment fell to Ellen's lot ; but even she, 
though sighing at the thought of parting, could not be 
very miserable whilst her sister was so happy, 

A few days after their arrival, we happenetl to dine 
with our accomplished neighbours, Colonel Falkner 
and his sister. Our young friends of course accom- 
panied us ; and a similarity of age, of liveliness, and 
of musical talent, speedily recommended Charlotte and 
Miss Falkner to^ each other. They became immediately 
intimate, and were soon almost inseparable. Ellen at 
first hung bade. *' The house was. too gay, too full of 
shifting company, of titles, and of strange faces* Miss 
Falkner was very kind ; but she took too^ much notice' 
oi: her, introduced her to lovds and ladies, talked of her 



1^4 ELLtN. 

drawings, and pressed her to sing :— she would rather j, 
if I pleased, stay with me, and walk in the coppice^ 
or sit in the arbour, and one might read Spenser whilst 
the other worked — that would be best of all. Might 
she stay ?"-—" Oh surely ! But Colonel Falkner, El- 
len, I thought you would have liked him ?" — " Yes !" 
— " That yes sounds exceedingly like wo." — " Why, is 
be not almost too clever, too elegant, too grand a man ? 
Too mannered, as it were ? Too much like what one 
fancies of a prince — of George the Fourth, for instance 
—too high and too condescending 1 These are strange 
faults," continued she, laughing — " and it is a curious 
injustice that I should dislike a man merely because he 
is so graceful, that he makes me feel doubly awkward 
— so tall, that I am in his presence a conscious dwarf 
—so alive and eloquent in conversation, that I feel more 
than ever puzzled and unready. But so it is. To say 
the truth, I am more afraid of him than of any human 
being in the world, except one. I may stay with you 
—may I not ; and read of Una and of Britomart — that 
prettiest scene where her old nurse soothes her to 
sleep ? I may stay ?" And for two or three mornings 
she did stay ivith me ; but Charlotte's influence and 
Miss Falkner's kindness speedily drew her to Holly- 
grove, at first shily and reluctantly, yet soon with an 
evident though quiet enjoyment ; and we, sure that our 
young visitors could gain nothing but good in such so» 



ELLEN. 155 

eiety, were pleased that tliey should so vary the humble 
home-scene. 

Colonel Falkner was a man in the very prime of lifcj 
of that happy age which unites the grace and spirit of 
youth with the firmness and vigour of manhood. The 
heir of a large fortune, he had served in the peninsular 
war, fought in Spain and France and at Waterloo, and, 
quitting the army at the peace, had loitered about 
Germany and Italy and Greece, and only returned on 
the death of his father, two or three years back, to re- 
side on the family estate, where he had won " golden 
opinions from all sorts of people." He was, as Ellen 
truly described him, tall and graceful, and well-bred 
almost to a fault ; reminding her of that beau-ideal of 
courtly elegance George the Fourth, and me, (pray, 
reader, do not tell !) me, a little, a very little, the least 
in the world, of Sir Charles Grandison, He certainly 
did excel rather too much in the mere forms of polite- 
ness, in clokings and bowings, and handings down 
stairs ; but then he was, like both his prototypes, tho- 
roughly imbued with its finer essence— -considerate, at- 
tentive, kind, in the most comprehensive sense of that 
comprehensive word. I have certainly known men of 
deeper learning and more original genius, but never 
any one whose powers were better adapted to conversa- 
tion, who could blend more happily the most varied 
and extensive knowledge with the most playful wit and 



1^6 ^.LLEN. 

tlie most interesting and amiable character. Fa&cmatmg 
was the word that seemed made for him. His conver- 
sation was entirely free from trickery and display — the 
charm was (or seemed to be) perfectly natural : he wa« 
an excellent listener ; and when he was speaking to any 
eminent person — orator, artist, or poet, — I have some- 
times seen a slight hesitation, a momentary diffidence, 
as attractive as it was unexpected. It was this asto- 
nishing evidence of fellow-feeling, joined to the gentle- 
ness of his tone, the sweetness of his smile, and his 
studied avoidance of all particular notice or attention, 
that first reconciled Ellen to Colonel Falkner. His 
sister too, a charming young woman, as like him as 
Viola to Sebastian, began to understand the sensitive 
properties of this shrinking and delicate flower, which, 
leR to itself, repaid their kind neglect by unfolding in 
a manner that surprised and delighted us all. Before 
the spring had glided into summer, Ellen was as much 
at home at Holly-grove as with us ; talked and laughed 
and played and sang as freely as Charlotte. She would 
indeed break off if visibly listened to, either when speak- 
ing or singing ; biit still the ice was broken ; that rich^ 
low, mellow voice, unrivalled in pathos and sweetness, 
might be heard every evening, even by the Coloneli 
with little more precaution, not to disturb her by praise 
or notice, than would be used with her fellow-warbleif 
the nightingale. 



ELLEN. IfT 

She was happy at Holly-grove, and we were de- 
lighted ; but so shifting and various are human feelings 
and wishes, that, as the summer wore on, before the 
liay-making was over in its beautiful park, whilst the 
bees were still in its lime-trees, and the golden beetle 
lurked in its white rose, I began to lament that she had 
ever seen Holly-grove or known its master. It was 
clear to me, that unintentionally on his part, unwittingly 
on hers, her heart was gone,- — and, considering the 
merit of the unconscious possessor, probably gone for 
ever. She had all the pretty marks of love at that 
happy moment when the name and nature of the passion 
are alike unsuspected by the victim. To her there was 
but one object in the whole world, and that one was 
Colonel Falkner : she lived only in his presence ; hung 
on his words ; was restless she knew not why in his 
absence ; adopted his tastes and opinions, which dif- 
fered from hers as those of clever men so frequently do 
from those of clever women ; read the books he praised, 
and praised them too, deserting our old idols, Spenser 
and Fletcher, for his favourites, Dry den and Pope; 
sang the songs he loved as she walked about the house ; 
drew his features instead of Milton's in a portrait which 
she was copying for me of our great poet,— and finally 
wrote his name on the margin. She moved as in a 
dreant — a dream as innocent as it was delicious !— -but 
€ii .the sad, sad waking i It made my heart ache to 



l^S ELLEN. 

think of the misery to which that fine and sensitive 
mind seemed to be reserved, Ellen was formed for 
constancy and suffering— it was her first love, and it 
would be her last. I had no hope that her affection 
was returned. Young men, talk as they may of men- 
tal attractions, are commonly the slaves of personal 
charms. Colonel Falkner, especially, was a professed 
admirer of beauty. I had even sometimes fancied 
that he was caught by Charlotte's, and had therefore 
taken an opportunity to communicate her engagement 
to his sister. Certainly he paid our fair and bloom- 
ing guest extraordinary attention : any thing of gallan- 
try ox compliment was always addressed to her, and 
so for the most part was his gay and captivating con- 
versation ; whilst his manner to Ellen, though ex- 
qusitely soft and kind, seemed rather that of an affec- 
tionate brother. I had no hopes. 

Afikirs were in this posture when I was at once 
grieved and relieved by the unexpected recall of our 
young visitors. Their father had completed his busi- 
ness in Ireland, and was eager to return to his dear 
home, and his dear children ; Charlotte's lover, too, 
was ordained, and was impatient to possess his pro- 
mised treasure. The intended bridegroom was to 
arrive the same evening to escort the fair sisters, and 
the journey was to take place the next day. Imagine 
the revulsion of feeling produced by a short note, 3^ 



ELLEN. 1^9 

hit of folded paper— the natural and redoubled ecstacy 
of Charlotte, the mingled emotions of Ellen. She 
wept bitterly : at first she called it joy— joy that she 
should again see her dear father ; then it was grief to 
lose her Charlotte ; grief to part from me ; but, when 
she threw herself in a farewell embrace on the neck of 
Miss Falkner, whose brother happened to be absent 
for a few days on business, the truth appeared to 
burst upon her at once, in a gush of agony that seemed 
likely to break her heart. Miss Falkner was deeply 
affected ; begged her to write to her often, very 
often ; loaded her with the gifts of little price, the 
valueless tokens which affection holds so dear, and 
stole one of her fair ringlets in return. " This is the 
curl which William used to admire," said she : " have 
you no message for poor William ?"— Poor Ellen ! her 
blushes spoke, and the tears which dropped from her 
downcast eyes ; but she had no utterance. Charlotte, 
however, came to her relief with a profusion of thanks 
and compliments ; and Ellen, weeping with a violence 
that would not be controlled, at last left Holly-grove. 

The next day we too lost our dear young friends. 
Oh what a sad day it was ! how much we missed Char- 
lotte's bright smile and Ellen's sweet complacency ! We 
walked about desolate and forlorn, with the painful 
sense of want and insufficiency, and of that vacancy in 
our home, and at our board, which the departure of k 

K 



130 ELLEN. 

cherished guest is sure to occasion. To lament the 
absence of Charlotte, the dear Charlotte, the happiest 
of the happy, was pure selfishness ; but of the aching 
heart of Ellen, my dearer Ellen, I could not bear to 
think — and yet I could thinlc of nothing else, could 
call up no other image than her pale and trembling 
form, weeping and sobbing as I had seen her at 
Hollygrove ; she haunted even my dreams. 

Early the ensuing morning I was called down to 
the colonel, and found him in the garden. He apolo- 
gised for his unseasonable intrusion ; talked of the 
weather, then of the loss which our society had sus- 
tained ; blushed and hesitated ; had again recourse to 
the weather ; and at last by a mighty effort, after two 
or three sentences begun and unfinished, contrived, 
with an embarassment more graceful and becoming 
than all his polished readiness, to ask me to furnish 
him with a letter to Mr. Page. " You must have 
&een," said he, colouring and smiling, " that I was 
captivated by your beautiful friend ; and I hope — ^ — I 
could have wished to have spoken first to herself, to 
have made an interest — but still if her affections are 
disengaged — tell me, you who must know, you who 
are always my friend, have I any chance ? Is she dis- 
engaged ?"-—" Alas ! I have sometimes feared this ; 
but I thought you had heard — your sister at least was 
aware "™-«« Of what ? It was but this very morn- 



ELLENo 131 

sng — aware of what ?" — " Of Charlotte's engagement." 
— " Charlotte ! It is of Ellen, not her sister, that I 
speak and think ! Of Ellen, the pure, the delicate, 
the divine ! That whitest and sweetest of flowers ; 
the jasmine, the myrtle, the tuberose among women," 
continued he, elucidating his similes by gathering a 
sprig of each plant, as he paced quickly up and down 
the garden walk — " Ellen, the fairest and the best ; 
your darling, and mine ! Will you give me a letter 
to her father ? And will you wish me success V* — 
*' Will I ! Oh ! how sincerely ! My dear colonel, I 
beg a thousand pardons for undervaluing your taste 
— for suspecting you of preferring a damask rose to a 
blossomed myrtle ; I should have known you better," 
—And then we talked of Ellen, dear Ellen, talked and 
praised till even the lover's heart was satisfied. I am 
convinced that he went away that morning, persuaded 
that I was one of the cleverest women, and the best 
judges of character that ever lived. 

And now my story is over. What need to say, that 
the letter was written with the warmest zeal, and re- 
ceived with the most cordial graciousness — or that 
Ellen, though shedding sweet tears, bore the shock of 
joy better than the shock of grief,^-or that the twin 
sisters were married on the same day, at the same 
altar, each to the man of her heart, and each with 
every prospect of more than common felicity ? What 

k2 



lSj2 ELLEN. 

need to say this ? Or, having said this, why should I 
tell what was the gift that so enchanted me ? I will 
Rot tell : — ray readers shall decide according to their 
several fancies between silver favours, or bridal gloves, 
or the magical wedding-cake, drawn nine times through 
the ring. 



WALKS IN THE COUNTRY 



THE COWSLIP-BALL. 

May 16.— There are moments in life, when, without 
any visible or immediate cause, the spirits sink and 
fail, as it were, under the mere pressure of existence : 
moments of unaccountable depression, when one is 
weary of one's very thoughts, haunted by images that 
will not depart — images many and various, but all 
painful ; friends lost, or changed, or dead ; hopes disap- 
pointed even in their accomplishment ; fruitless regrets, 
powerless wishes, doubt and fear and self-distrust, and 
self-disapprobation. They who have known these 
feelings, (and who is there so happy as not to have 
known some of them ?) will understand why Alfieri 
became powerless, and Froissart dull ; and why even 
needle-work, that most effectual sedative, that grand 
soother and composer of woman's distress, fails to 
comfort me to-day, I will go out into the air this 
cool pleasant afternoon, and try what that will do<. I 



1S4 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

fancy that exercise, or exertion of any kind, is the 
true specific for nervousness. " Fling but a stone> 
the giant dies." I will go to the meadows, the beau- 
tiful meadows ! and I will have my materials of happi- 
ness, Lizzy and May, and a basket for flowers, and 
we will make a cowslip-ball. " Did you ever see a 
cowslip-ball, my Lizzy?" — *' No." — "Come away, 
then ; make haste ! run Lizzy !" 

And on we go fast, fast i down the road, across the 
lea, past the workhouse, along the great pond, till we 
slide into the deep narrow lane, whose hedges seem 
to meet over the water, and win our way to the little 
farm-house at the end. " Through the farm-yard, 
Lizzy ; over the gate : never mind the cows ; they are 
quiet enough."—" I don't mind 'em," said Miss Lizzy, 
boldly and truly, and with a proud affronted air, dis- 
pleased at being thought to mind any thing, and 
showing by her attitude and manner some design of 
proving her courage by an attack on the large&t of the 
herd, in the shape of a pull by the tail. ** I don't 
mind 'em." — " I know you don't, Lizzy ; but let them 
alone, and don't chase the turkey-cock. Come to me, 
my dear \" and, for a wonder, Lizzy came. 

In the mean time my other pet, May-flower, had 
also gotten into a scrape. She had driven about a 
huge unwieldy sow, till the animal's grunting had dis- 
turbed the repose of a still more enormous Newfound- 



THE COWSLIP-BALL. 135 

land dog, the guardian of the yard. Out he sallied 
growling from the depth of his kennel, erecting his 
tail, and shaking his long chain. May's attention was 
instantly diverted from the sow to this new playmate, 
friend or foe, she cared not which ; and he of the 
kennel, seeing his charge unhurt and out of danger, 
was at leisure to observe the charms of his fair 
enemy, as she frolicked round him, always beyond the 
reach of his chain, yet always with the natural in- 
stinctive coquetry of her sex, alluring him to the pur- 
suit which she knew to be vain, I never saw a pret- 
tier flirtation. At last the noble animal, wearied out, 
retired to the inmost recesses of his habitation, and 
would not even approach her when she stood right be- 
fore the entrance, " You are properly served, May. 
Come along, Lizzy. Across this wheat-field, and now 
over the gate. Stop ! let me lift you down. No 
jumping, no breaking of necks, Lizzy ! And here we 
are in the meadows, and out of the world. Robinson 
Crusoe, in his lonely island, had scarcely a more com- 
plete, or a more beautiful solitude." 

These meadows consist of a double row of small 
enclosures of rich grass-land, a mile or two in length, 
sloping down from high arable grounds on either side 
to a little nameless brook that winds between them, 
with a course which in its infinite variety, clearness, 
and rapidity, seems to emulate the bold rivers of th^ 

8 



136 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

north, of whom, far more than of our lazy southern 
streams, our rivulet presents a miniature likeness. 
Never was water more exquisitely tricksy : — now 
darting over the bright pebbles, sparkling and flashing 
in the light with a bubbling music, as sweet and wild 
as the song of the woodlark ; now stretching quietly 
along, giving back the rich tufts of the golden marsh- 
marygolds which grow on its margin ; now sweeping 
round a fine reach of green grass, rising steeply into a 
high mound, a mimic promontory, whilst the other 
side sinks softly away, like some tiny bay, and the 
water flows between, so clear, so wide, so shallow, 
that Lizzy, longing for adventure, is sure she could 
cross unwetted ; now dashing through two sand- 
banks, a torrent deep and narrow, which May clears 
at a bound ; now sleeping half-hidden beneath the 
alders and hawthorns and wild roses, with which the 
banks are so profusely and variously fringed, whilst 
flags*, lilies, and other aquatic plants, almost cover 

* Walking along these meadows one bright snnnj afternoon, a 
year or two back, and rather later in the season, I had an opportu- 
nity of observing a curious circumstance in natural history. Stand- 
ing close to the edge of the stream, I remarked a singular appear- 
ance on a large tuft of flags. It looked like bunches of flowers, the 
leaves of which seemed dark, yet transparent, intermingled with 
brilliant tubes of bright blue or shining green. On examining this 
phaenomeuon more closely, it turned out to be several clusters of 
dragon-flies, just emerged from their deformed chrysalis state, and 



THE COWSLIP-BALL. 137 

the surface of the stream. In good truth it is a beau- 
tiful brook, and one that Walton himself might have 
sitten by and loved, for trout are there ; we see them 
as they dart up the stream, and hear and start at the 
sudden plunge when they spring to the surface for the 
summer flies, Isaac Walton would have loved our 
brook and our quiet meadows ; they breathe the very 
spirit of his own peacefulness, a soothing quietude that 
sinks into the soul. There is no path through them, 
not one ; we might wander about a whole spring day, 
and not see a trace of human habitation. They be- 
long to a number of small proprietors, who allow each 
other access through their respective grounds, from 
pure kindness and neighbourly feeling, a privilege 
never abused ; and the fields on the other side of the 
water are reached by a rough plank, or a tree thrown 
across, or some such homely bridge. We ourselves 
possess one of the most beautiful ; so that the strange 
pleasure of property, that instinct which makes Lizzy 
delight in her broken doll, and May in the bare bone 
which she has pilfered from the kennel of her recreant 

still torpid and motionless from the wetness of their filmy wings. 
Half an hoar later we returned to the spot, and they were gone. 
We had seen them at the very moment when beauty was complete, 
and animation dormant. I have since found a nearly similar ac- 
count of this curious process in Mr. Bingley's V£ry entertaining 
work, oalled *• Animal Biography." 



138 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

admirer of Newfoundland, is added to the other 
charms of this enchanting scenery ; a strange pleasure 
it is, when one so poor as I can feel it ! Perhaps it is 
felt most by the poor, with the rich it may be less in- 
tense — too much diffused and spread out, becoming 
thin by expansion, like leaf-gold ; the little of the 
poor may be not only more precious, but more plea- 
sant to them : certainly that bit of grassy and blos- 
somy earth, with its green knolls and tufted bushes, 
its old pollards wreathed with ivy, and its bright and 
babbling waters, is very dear to me. But I must al- 
ways have loved these meadows, so fresh, and cool, 
and delicious to the eye and to the tread, full of cow- 
slips, and of all vernal flowers ; Shakspeare's Song of 
Spring bursts irrepressibly from our lips as we step on 
them : 

•' When daisies pied, and violets blue. 

And lady-smocks all silver white. 
And cuckoo-buds of jellow hue, 

Do paint the meadows with delight. 
The cuckoo then on every tree-—" 

•' Cuckoo ! cuckoo !" cried Lizzy, breaking in with 
her clear childish voice ; and immediately, as if at her 
call, the real bird, from a neighbouring tree (for these 
meadows are dotted with timber like a park), began to 
echo my lovely little girl, ** cuckoo ! cuckoo !" I 
have a prejudice very unpastoral and unpoetical (but I 



THE COWSLIP-BALL. 139 

cannot help it, I have many such), against this "har- 
binger of spring." His note is so monotonous, so 
melancholy ; and then the boys mimic him ; one hears 
" cuckoo ! cuckoo !" in dirty streets, amongst smoky 
houses, and the bird is hated for faults not his own. 
But prejudices of taste, likings and dislikings, are not 
always vanquishable by reason ; so, to escape the se- 
renade from the tree, which promised to be of con- 
siderable duration, (when once that ieternal song begins, 
on it goes ticking like a clock)- — to escape that noise I 
determined to excite another, and challenged Lizzy to 
a cowslip-gathering ; a trial of skill and speed, to 
see which should soonest fill her basket. My strata- 
gem succeeded completely. What scrambling, what 
shouting, what glee from Lizzy ! twenty cuckoos 
might have sung unheard whilst she was pulling her 
own flowers, and stealing mine, and laughing, scream- 
ing, and talking through all. 

At last the baskets were filled, and Lizzy declared 
victor : and down we sate, on the brink of the stream, 
under a spreading hawthorn, just disclosing its own 
pearly buds, and surrounded with the rich and ena- 
melled flowers of the wild hyacinth, blue and white, to 
make our cowslip-ball. Every one knows the pro- 
cess ; to nip off the tuft of flowerets just below the top 
of the stalk, and hang each cluster nicely balanced 
across a riband, till you have a long string like a gar- 



140 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

land ; then to press tliem closely together, and tie 
them tightly up. We went on very prosperously, 
considering ; as people say of a young lady's drawing, 
or a Frenchman's English, or a woman's tragedy, or of 
the poor little dwarf who works without fingers, or the 
ingenious sailor who writes with his toes, or generally 
of any performance which is accomplished by means 
seemingly inadequate to its production. To be sure 
we met with a few accidents. First, Lizzy spoiled 
nearly all her cowslips by snapping them off too 
short ; so there was a fresh gathering ; in the next 
place May overset my full basket, and sent the blos- 
soms floating, like so many fairy favours, down the 
brook ; then when we were going on pretty steadily, 
just as we had made a superb wreath, and were think- 
ing of tying it together, Lizzy, who held the riband, 
caught a glimpse of a gorgeous butterfly, all brown 
and red and purple, and skipping off to pursue the 
new object, let go her hold ; so all our treasures were 
abroad again. At last, however, by dint of taking a 
branch of alder as a substitute for Lizzy, and hanging 
the basket in a pollard-ash, out of sight of May, the 
cowslip-ball was finished. What a concentration of 
fragrance and beauty it was ! golden and sweet to 
satiety ! rich to sight, and touch, and smell ! Lizzy 
was enchanted, and ran off with her prize, hiding 
amongst the trees in the v^ry coyness of ecstacy, as if 



THE COWSLIP-BALL. 141 

any human eye, even mine, would be a restraint on her 
innocent raptures. 

In the mean while I sate listening, not to my enemy 
the cuckoo, but to a whole concert of nightingales, 
scarcely interrupted by any meaner bird, answering and 
vying with each other in those short delicious strains 
which are to the ear as roses to the eye ; those snatches 
of lovely sound which come across us as airs from hea- 
ven. Pleasant thoughts, delightful associations, awoke 
as I listened ; and almost unconsciously I repeated to 
myself the beautiful story of the Lutist and the Night- 
ingale, from Ford's Lover's Melancholy. Here it is. 
Is there in English poetry any thing finer ? 

" Passing from Italy to Greece, the tales 
Which poets of an elder time have feign'd 
To glorify their Tempe, bred in me 
Desire of visiting Paradise. 
To Thessaly I came, and living private, 
Without acquaintance of more sweet companions 
Than the old inmates to my love, my thoughts, 
I day by day frequented silent groves 
And solitary walks. One morning early 
This accident encounter'd me : I heard 
The sweetest and most ravishing contention 
That art and nature ever were at strife in. 
A sound of music touch'd mine ears, or rather 
Indeed entranced my soul : as I stole nearer. 
Invited by the melody, I saw 
This youthj this fair-faced youth, upon his lute 



14^ WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

With strains of strange variety and harmony 

Proclaiming, as it seem'd, so bold a challenge 

To the clear choristers of the woods, the birds, 

That as they flock'd about him, all stood silent, 

Wond'ring at what they heard. I wonder'd too, 

A nightingale. 

Nature's best-skill'd musician, undertakes 

The challenge ; and for every several strain 

The well-shaped youth could touch, she sang him down. 

He could not run divisions with more art 

Upon his quaking instrument than she, 

The nightingale, did with her various notes 

Reply to. 

Some time thus spent, the young man grew at last 

Into a pretty anger, that a bird. 

Whom art had never taught cliffs, moods, or notes, 

Should vie with him for mastery, whose study 

Had busied many hours to perfect practice. 

To end the controversy, in a rapture 

Upon his instrument he plays so swiftly, 

So many voluntaries, and so quick. 

That there was curiosity and cunning, 

Concord in discord, lines of differing method 

Meeting in one full centre of delight. 

The bird (ordain'd to be 

Music's first martyr) strove to imitate 

These several sounds ; which when her warbling throat 

Failed in, for grief down dropt she on his lute, 

And brake her heart. It was the quaintest sadness 

To see the conqueror upon her hearse 

To weep a funeral eleg}' of tears. 

He look'd upon the trophies of his art. 

Then sigh'd, then wip'd his eyes ; then sigh'd, and cry'd, 



THE COWSLIP-BALL. 143 

* Alas ! poor creature, I will soon revenge 
This cruelt^r upon the author of it. 
Henceforth this lute, guilty of innocent blood, 
Shall never more betray a harmless peace 
To an untimely end :' and in that sorrow, 
As he was pashing it against a tree, 
I suddenly slept in." 

When I had finished the recitation of this exquisite 
passage, the sky, which had been all the afternoon dull 
and heavy, began to look more and more threatening ; 
darker clouds, like wreaths of black smoke, flew across 
the dead leaden tint ; a cooler, damper air blew ov^r 
the meadows, and a few large heavy drops plashed in 
the water. " We shall have a storm. Lizzy ! May ! 
where are ye ? Quick, quick, my Lizzy ! run, run ! 
faster, faster!" 

And off we ran ; Lizzy not at all displeased at the 
thoughts of a wetting, to which indeed she is almost as 
familiar as a duck ; May, on the other hand, peering 
up at the weather, and shaking her pretty ears with ma« 
nifest dismay. Of all animals, next to a cat, a grey- 
hound dreads rain. She might have escaped it ; her 
light feet would have borne her home long before the 
shower ; but May is too faithful for that, too true a 
comrade, understands too well the laws of good fellow- 
ship ; so she waited for us. She did, to be sure, gal- 
lop on before, and then stop and look back, and beckon, 



144 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

as it were, with some scorn in her black eyes at the 
slowness of our progress. We in the mean while got 
on as fast as we could, encouraging and reproaching 
each other. " Faster, my Lizzy ! Oh what a bad runner !" 
— " Faster, faster ! Oh what a bad runner," echoed my 
saucebox. " You are so fat, Lizzy, you make no 
way !" — *' Ah ! who else is fat ?" retorted the darling. 
Certainly her mother is right ; I do spoil that child. 

By this time we were thoroughly soaked, all three. 
It was a pelting shower, that drove through our thin 
summer clothing and poor May's short glossy coat in a 
moment. And then, when we were wet to the skin, the 
sun came out, actually the sun, as if to laugh at our 
plight ; and then, more provoking still, when the sun 
was shining, and the shower over, came a maid and a 
boy to look after us, loaded with cloaks and umbrellas 
enough to fence us against a whole day's rain. Never 
mind ! on we go, faster and faster ; Lizzy obliged to 
be most ignobly carried, having had the misfortune to 
lose a shoe in the mud, which we left the boy to look 
after. 

Here we are at home — dripping ; but glowing and 
laughing, and bearing our calamity most manfully. 
May, a dog of excellent sense, went instantly to bed 
in the stable, and is at this moment over head and ears 
in straw ; Lizzy is gone to bed too, coaxed into that 
wise measure by a promise of tea and toast, and of not 



THE COWSLIP-BALL. 145 

going home till to-morrow, and the story of Little Red 
Riding-Hood ; and I am enjoying the luxury of dry 
clothing by a good fire. Really getting wet through 
now and then is no bad thing, finery apart ; for one 
should not like spoiling a new pelisse or a handsome 
plume; but when there is nothing in question but a 
white gown and a straw bonnet, as was the case to-dayg 
it is rather pleasant than not. The little chill refreshes, 
and our enjoyment of the subsequent warmth and dry- 
ness is positive and absolute. Besides, the stimulus 
and exertion do good to the mind as well as body. 
How melancholy I was all the morning ! how cheerful 
I am now ! Nothing like a shower-bath — a real shower- 
bath, such as Lizzy and May and I have undergone, to 
cure low spirits. Try it, my dear readers, if ever ye 
be nervous — I will answer for its success. 



A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH, 



I DOUBT if there be any scene in the world more ani- 
mating or delightful than a cricket-match ;— I do not 
mean a set match at Lord's Ground for money, hard 
money, between a certain number of gentlemen and 
players, as they are called — ^^people who make a trade 
of that noble sport, and degrade it into an affair of bet- 
tings, and hedgings, and cheatings, it may be, like 
boxing or horse-racing : nor do I mean a pretty fete in 
a gentleman's park, where one club of cricketing dan- 
dies encounters another such club, and where they show 
off in graceful costume to a gay marquee of admiring 
belles, who condescend so to purchase admiration, and 
while away a long summer morning in partaking cold 
collations, conversing occasionally, and seeming to un- 
derstand the game; — the whole being conducted ac- 
cording to ball-room etiquette, so as to be exceedingly 
elegant and exceedingly dull. No ! the cricket that I 
mean is a real solid old-fashioned match between neigh- 
bouring parishes^ where each attacks the other for ho- 



A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 147 

^our and a supper, glory, and half a crown a man. If 
there be any gentlemen amongst th^m, It is well-^if 
not, it is so much the better. Your gentleman cricketer 
is in general rather an anomalous character. Elderly 
gentlemen are obviously good for nothing ; and young 
beaux are, for the most part, hampered and trammelled 
by dress and habit; the stiff cravat, the pinched-in 
waist, the dandy walk — oh they will never do for 
cricket J Now, our country lads, accustomed to the 
flail or die hammer (your blacksmiths are capital hit- 
ters,) have the free use of their arms ; they know how 
to move their shoulders ; and they can move their feet 
too—they can run ; then they are so much better made, 
sa much more athletic, and yet so much lissomer — to 
use a Hampshire phrase, which deserves at least to be 
good English. Here and there, indeed, one meets 
with an old Etonian, who retains his boyish love for 
that game which formed so considerable a branch of his 
education ; some even preserve their boyish proficiency, 
but in general it wears away like the Greek, quite as 
certainly, and almost as fast ; a few years of Oxford, 
or Cambridge, or the continent, are sufficient to anni- 
l^iliate both the power and the inclination. No ! a vil^ 
lage match is the thing, — ^where our highest officei?'-- 
our conductor (to borrow a musical term) is but a little 
farmer's second son; where a day-labourer is ouf 
bowler, and a blacksmith our long-stop; where thif 

J.2 



148 A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 

spectators consist of the retired cricketers, the veterans 
of the green, the careful mothers, the girls, and all the 
boys of two parishes, together with a few amateurs lit- 
tle above them in rank, and not at all in pretension 4 
where laughing and shouting, and the very ecstacy of 
merriment and good humour, prevail : such a match, 
in short, as I attended yesterday, at the expense of 
getting twice wet through, and as I would attend to- 
morrow, at the certainty of having that ducking doubled. 
For the last three weeks our village has been in a 
state of great excitement, occasioned by a challenge 
from our north-western neighbours, the men of B., to 
contend with us at cricket. Now we have not been 
much in the habit of playing matches. Three or four 
years ago, indeed, we encountered the men of S., our 
neighbours south-by-east, with a sort of doubtful suc- 
cess, beating them on our own ground, whilst they in 
the second match returned the compliment on theirs. 
This discouraged us. Then an unnatural coalition be- 
tween a high-church curate and an evangelical gentle- 
man-farmer drove our lads from the Sunday evening 
practice, which, as it did not begin before both services 
were concluded, and as it tended !to keep the young 
men from the ale-house, our magistrates had winked 
at, if not encouraged. The sport therefore had lan- 
guished until the present season, when under another 
ck^nge of circumstances the spirit began to revive. 



A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 149 

Half a dozen fine active lads, of influence amongst 
their comrades, grew into men and yearned for cricket i 
an enterprising publican gave a set of ribands ; his ri- 
val, mine host of the Rose, an out-doer by profession^ 
gave two ; and the clergyman and his lay ally, both 
well-disposed and good-natured men, gratified by the 
submission to their authority, and finding, perhaps, 
that no great good resulted from the substitution of 
public houses for out-of-door diversions, relaxed. In 
short the practice recommenced, and the hill w^as again 
alive with men and boys, and innocent merriment ; but 
farther than the riband matches amongst ourselves no- 
body dreamed of going, till this challenge — we were 
modest, and doubted our own strength. The B. peo« 
pie, on the other hand, must have been braggers bom 
a whole parish of gasconaders. Never was such boast- 
ing ! such crowing ! such ostentatious display of prac» 
tice ! such mutual compliments from man to man- 
bowler to batter, batter to bowler ! It was a wonder 
they did not challenge all England. It must be con- 
fessed that we were a little astounded ; yet we firmly 
resolved not to decline the combat ; and one of the 
most spirited of the new growth, William Grey by 
name, took up the glove in a style of manly courtesy^ 
that would have done honour to a knight in the days 
of chivalry. — ** We were not professed players,'' he 
said ; " being httle better than school»boySj and scarcely 



A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 

bider : but, since they had done us the honour to chal- 
lenge us, we would try our strength. It would be no 
discredit to be beaten by such a field." 

Having accepted the wager of battle, out champion 
began forthwith to collect his forces. William Grey is 
himself one of the finest youths that one shall see, — 
tall, active, slender and yet strong, with a piercing ey6 
full of sagacity, and a smile full of good humour,— a 
farme;f*s son by station, and used to hard work as 
farmers' sons are now, liked by every body, and ad- 
njitted to be an excellent cricketer. He immediately 
set forth to muster his men, remembering with great 
complacency that Samuel Long, a bowler comme il y en 
a peuj the very man who had knocked down nine 
wickets, had beaten us, bowled us out at the fatal re- 
turn match some years ago at S., had luckily, in a re- 
move of a quarter of a mile last Lady-day, crossed the 
boundaries of his old parish, and actually belonged to 
vd. Here was a stroke of good fortune ! Our captain 
applied to him instantly ; and he agreed at a word. 
Indeed Samuel Long is a very civilised person. He is 
;a middle-aged man who looks rather old amongst our 
y6ung lads, and whose thickness and breadth give no 
token of remarkable activity ; but he is very active, 
and so steady a player ! so safe ! We had half gained 
the mtatch when we had secuted hinii He is a man of 
sbb^tancej tooi, in eviry v^ay ; owns one cow, two ddn- 



A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 151 

keys, six pigs, and geese atid ducks feeyond count ; 
dresses like a farmer, and owes no man a shilling ; — 
and all this from pure industry, sheer day-labour. Note, 
that your good cricketer is commonly the most indus- 
trious man in the parish; the habits that make him 
such are precisely those which make a good workman — 
steadiness, sobriety, and activity— Samuel Long might 
pass for the beau ideal of the two characters, Happy 
were we to possess him ! Then v/e had another piece 
of good luck* James Brown, a journeyman blacksmith 
and a native, who, being of a rambling disposition, had 
roamed from place to place for half a dozen years, had 
just returned to settle with his brother at another cor- 
ner of our village, bringing with him a prodigious re- 
putation in cricket and in gallantry — the gay Lothario 
of the neighbourhood. He is said to have made more 
conquests in love and in cricket than any blacksmith in 
the county. To him also went the indefatigable Wil- 
liam Grey, and he also consented to play. No end to 
our good fortune ! Another celebrated batter, called 
Joseph Hearne, had likewise recently married into the 
piarish. He worked, it is true, at the A. mills, but 
slept at the house of his wife's father in our territories. 
He also was sought and found by our leader. But he 
was grand and shy ; made an inunense favour of the 
thing; courted courting and then hung back;—** Did 
not know that he could be spared ; had partly resolved 



15^ A COUNTRY €RICKET-MATCH. 

not to play again — -at least not this season ; thought it 
rash to accept the challenge ; thought they might do 

without him " — " Truly I think so too," said our 

spirited champion ; "we will not trouble you, Mr. 
Hearne." 

Having thus secured two powerful auxiliaries, and 
rejected a third, we began to reckon and select the re- 
gular native forces. Thus ran our list : — William 
Grey, 1. — Samuel Long, 2. — James Brown, 3. — 
George and John Simmons, one capital, the other so, 
so, — an uncertain hitter, but a good fieldsman, 5. — - 
Joel Brent excellent, 6. — Ben Appleton — Here was a 
little pause — Ben's abilities at cricket were not com- 
pletely ascertained ; but then he was so good a fellow, 
so full of fun and waggery ! no doing without Ben. So 
he figured in the list, 7. — George Harris— a short halt 
there too ! Slowish— slow but sure. 1 think the pro- 
verb brought him in, 8. — Tom Coper — oh, beyond the 
world, Tom Coper ! the red-headed gardening lad, 
whose left-handed strokes send her, (a cricket-ball, like 
that other moving thing a ship, is always of the femi- 
nine gender,) send her spinning a mile, 9. — Robert 
Willis, another blacksmith, 10. 

We had now ten of our eleven, but the choice of the 
last occasioned some demur. Three young Martins, 
rich farmers of the neighbourhood, successively pre- 
sented themselvesj and were all rejected by our inde- 



A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH* 153 

pendent and impartial general for want of merit — • 
cricketal merit. " Not good enough," was his pithy 
answer. Then our worthy neighbour, the half-pay 
lieutenant, offered his services — he, too, though with 
some hesitation and modesty, was refused — " Not quite 
young enough" was his sentence. John Strong, the 
exceedingly long son of our dwarfish mason, was the 
next candidate,— a nice youth — every body likes John 
Strong, — and a willing, but so tall and so limp, bent 
in the middle — a thread-paper, six feet high ! We 
were all afraid that, in spite of his name, his strength 
would never hold out. " Wait till next year, John," 
quoth William Grey, with all the dignified seniority of 
twenty speaking to eighteen. *' Coper's a year younger," 
said John. " Coper's a foot shorter," rephed William : 
so John retired ; and the eleventh man remained un- 
chosen, almost till the eleventh hour. The eve of the 
match arrived, and the post was still vacant, when a 
little boy of fifteen, David Willis, brother to Robert, 
admitted by accident to the last practice, saw eight of 
them out, and was voted in by acclamation. 

That Sunday evening's practice (for Monday was tl»e 
important day) was a period of great anxiety, and, to 
say the truth, of great pleasure. There is something 
strangely delightful in the innocent spirit of party. To 
be one of a numerous body, to be authorised to say we^ 
io have a rightful interest in triumph or defeat, is gra- 



154 A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 

tifying at once to social feeling and to personal pride. 
There was not a ten-year old urchin, or a septuagenary 
woman in the parish, who did not feel an additional 
importance, a reflected consequence^ in speaking of 
** our side." An election interests in the same way ; 
but that feeling is less pure. Money is there, and 
hatred) and politics, and lies. Oh, to be a voter^ or 
a voter's wife, comes nothing near the genuine and 
hearty sympathy of belonging to a parish, breathing 
the same air, looking on the same trees, listening to 
the same nightingales ! Talk of a patriotic elector !^ — 
Give me a parochial patriot, a man who loves his pa- 
rish ! Even we, the female partisans, may partake the 
common ardour. I am sure I did. I never, though 
tolerably eager and enthusiastic at all times, remembeir 
being in a more delicious state of excitation than on the 
feve of that battle. Our hopes waxed stronger and 
Stronger. Those of our players, who were present, 
were excellent. William Grey got forty notches oflf 
his Own bat ; and that brilliant hitter Tom Coper gained 
eight from two successive balls. As the evening ad^ 
vanced, too, we had encouragement of another sort. 
A spy, who had been despatched to reconnoitre the 
e tieniy's quarters, returned from their practising ground, 
tiv'ith a most consolatory report. ** Really," said Charles 
Girovier, our intelligencer— a fine old steady judge, one 
wlio had played well in his dayr— " they are no better 



A COUNTRY CRiCKET-MAtCH. 15^ 

than so many old women. Any five of ours would 
beat their eleven." This sent us to bed in high 
spirits. 

Morning dawned less favourably. The sky pro- 
mised a series of deluging showers, and kept its word, 
as English skies are wont to do on such occasions ; and 
a lamentable mesi^age arrived &t the head-quarters 
from our trusty comrade Joel Brent, tlis master, a 
great farmer, had begun the hay-harvest that very 
morning, and Joel, being as eminent in one field as in 
another, could not be spared. Imagine Joel's plight ! 
the most ardent of all our eleven ! a knight held back 
from the tourney ! a soldier from the battle ! The 
poor swain was inconsolable. At last, one who is 
always ready to do a good-natured action, great or 
little, set forth to back his petition ; and, by dint of 
appealing to the public spirit of out Worthy neighbour, 
and the state of the barometer, talking alternately of 
the parish honour and thunder showers, of lost 
matches and sopped h^f, he carried his point, and 
returned triumphantly with the delighted Joel. 

In the meantime we became sensible of another de- 
falcation. On calling over our roll. Brown was miss- 
ing ; and the spy of the preceding night, Charles 
Gr6i^e?r,-i--th^ uriiter^al scont and messenger o(f the 
village, a liian who will rtm half-a-dozen miles for d 
pint of beer, who does errands for the very love of the 



156 A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 

trade, who, if he had been a lord, would have been an 
ambassador— was instantly despatched to summon the 
truant. His report spread general consternation. 
Brown had set off at four o'clock in the morning to 
play in a cricket-match at M., a little town twelve 
miles off, which had been his last residence. Here 
was desertion ! Here was treachery ! Here was trea- 
son against that goodly state, our parish ! To send 
James Brown to Coventry was the immediate resolu- 
tion ; but even that seemed too light a punishment 
for such delinquency. Then how we cried him down ! 
At ten, on Sunday-night, (for the rascal had actually 
practised with us, and never said a word of his in- 
tended disloyalty,) he was our faithful mate, and the 
best player (take him for all in all) of the eleven. At 
ten in the morning he had run away, and we were well 
rid of him ; he was no batter compared with William 
Grey or Tom Coper ; not fit to wipe the shoes of 
Samuel Long, as a bowler ; nothing of a scout to John 
Simmons ; the boy David Willis was worth fifty of 
him— 

" I trust we have within our realm 
Five hundred good as he." 

was the universal sentiment. So we took tall John 
Strong, who, with an incurable hankering after the 
honour of being admitted, had kept constantly with 



A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 157 

the players, to take the chance of some such accident— 
we took John for our pis-aller, I never saw any one 
prouder than the good-humoured lad was of this not 
very flattering piece of preferment. 

John Strong was elected, and Brown sent to Coven- 
try ; and, when I first heard of his delinquency, I 
thought the punishment only too mild for the crime. 
But I have since learned the secret history of the 
offence ; (if we could know the secret histories of all 
offences, how much better the world would seem than 
it does now !) and really my wrath is much abated. 
It was a piece of gallantry, of devotion to the sex, or 
rather a chivalrous obedience to one chosen fair. I 
must tell my readers the story. Mary Allen, the 
prettiest girl of M,, had it seems revenged upon our 
blacksmith the numberless inconstancies of which he 
stood accused. He was in love over head and ears, 
but the nymph was cruel. She said no, and no, and 
no, and poor Brown, three times rejected, at last re- 
solved to leave the place, partly in despair, and partly 
in that hope which often mingles strangely with a 
lover's despair, the hope that when he was gone he 
should be missed. He came home to his brother's 
accordingly ; but for five weeks he heard nothing from 
or of, the inexorable Mary, and was glad to beguile 
his own " vexing thoughts," by endeavouring to create 
In his mind an artificial and factitious interest in our 



158 A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 

cricket-match — all unimportant as such a trifle must 
have seemed to a man in love. Poor Jarties, however, 
is a social and warm-helarted person, not likely to re- 
sist a contagious sympathy. As the time for the play 
advanced, the interest which he had at first affected 
became genuine and sincere : and he was really, when 
he left the ground on Sunday-night, almost as enthu- 
siastically absorbed in the event of the next day as 
Joel Brent himself. He little foresaw the new and 
delightful interest which awaited him at home, where, 
on the moment of his arrival, his sister-in-law and 
confidante, presented him with a billet from the lady 
of his heart. It had, with the usual delay of letters 
sent by private hands, in that rank of life, loitered on 
the road in a degree inconceivable to those who are 
accustomed to the punctual speed of the post, and had 
taken ten days for its twelve-miles' journey. Have my 
readers any wish to see this billet-doux ? I can show 
them (but in stri<;t confidence) a literal copy. It was 
addressed, 

" For mistur jem browne 
" blaxmith by 
" S." 
The inside ran thus : — " Mistur browne this is to 
Inform yew that oure parish playes bramley men next 
monday is a week, i think we shall lose without yew* 
from your humbell servant to command 

" Maey Allen." 



A COXJNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 159 

Was there ever a prettier relenting? a summon? 
more flattering, more delicate, more irresistible ? The 
precious epistle was undated ; but, having ascertained 
who brought it, and found, by cross-examining the 
inessenger, that the Monday in question was the very 
next day, we were not surprised to find that Mistur 
hrqwne forgot his engagement to us, forgot all but 
Mary and Mary's letter, and set off at four o'clock 
the next morning to walk twelve miles, and play for 
her parish and in her sight. Really we must not send 
James Brown to Coventry-— must we? Though if, as 
his sister-in-law tells our damsel Harriet he hopes to 
do, he should bring the fair Mary home as his bride, 
he will not greatly care how little we say to him. 
But he rnust not be sent to Coventry— True-love 
forbid I 

At last we were all assembled, and marched down 
to H. common, the appointed ground, which, though 
in our dominions according to the map, was the con- 
stant practising place of our opponents, and terra in- 
cognita^ to us. We found our adversaries on the 
ground as we expected, for our various delays had 
hindered us from taking the field so early as we 
wished ; and, as soon as we had settled all prelimina- 
ries, the match began. 

But, alas ! I have been so long settling my prelimi- 
i^ies that I have left myself no room for the detail 



160 A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCH. 

of our victory, and must squeeze the account of our 
grand achievements into as little compass as Cowley, 
when he crammed the names of eleven of his mis- 
tresses into the narrow space of four eight-syllable 
lines. They began the warfare — these boastful men of 
B. And what think you, gentle reader, was the 
amount of their innings ? These challengers — the 
famous eleven — how many did they get ? Think ! 
imagine! guess! — You cannot? — Well! — they got 
twenty-two, or rather they got twenty ; for two of 
theirs were short notches, and would never have been 
allowed, only that, seeing what they were made of, we 
and our umpire were not particular. — They should 
have had twenty more, if they had chosen to claim 
them. Oh, how well we fielded ! and how well we 
bowled ! our good play had quite as much to do with 
their miserable failure as- their bad. Samuel Long is a 
slow bowler, George Simmons a fast one, and the 
change from Long*s lobbing to Simmons's fast balls 
posed them completely. Poor simpletons ! they were 
always wrong, expecting the slow for the quick, and 
the quick for the slow. Well, we went in. And 
what were our innings ? Guess again ! — guess ! A 
hundred and sixty-nine ! in spite of soaking showers, 
and wretched ground, where the ball would not run a 
yard, we headed them by a hundred and forty-seven ; 
and then they gave in, as well they might. William 



A COUNTRY CRICKET-MATCM. 161 

Grey pressed them much to try another innings. 
" There was so much chance," as he courteously ob« 
served, " in cricket, that advantageous as our position 
seemed, we might, very possibly, be overtaken. The 
B. men had better try." But they were beaten sulky, 
and would not move— to my great disappointment; 
I wanted to prolong the pleasure of success. What a 
glorious sensation it is to be for five hours together 
winning — winning — winning ! always feeling what a 
whist-player feels when he takes up four honours, 
seven trumps ! Who would think that a little bit of 
leather, and two pieces of wood, had such a delightful 
and delighting power ? 

The only drawback on my enjoyment, was the 
failure of the pretty boy, David Willis, who injudi- 
ciously put in first, and playing for the first time in a 
match amongst men and strangers, who talked to him, 
and stared at him, was seized v>'ith such a fit of shame- 
faced shyness, that he could scarcely hold his bat, and 
was bowled out, without a stroke, from actual nervous- 
ness. " He will come of that," Tom Coper says. — I 
am afraid he will, I wonder whether Tom had ever 
any modesty to lose. Our other rpodest lad, John 
Strong, did very well ; his length told in fielding, and 
he got good fame. Joel Brent, the rescued mower, 
got into a scrape, and out of it again ; his fortune for 
the day. He ran out his mate, Samuel Long ; wiio, I, 

M 



162 A country:. CRICKET-MATCH. 

iiio believe, but for the excess ©f Joel's eagernessj^ 
would have staid in till this time, by which exploit he 
got into sad disgrace 5 and then he himself got thirty- 
seven runs, which redeemed his reputation. William 
Grey made a hit which actually lost the cricket-ball. 
We think she lodged in a hedge, a quarter of a mile 
off, but nobody could find her. And George Simmons 
had nearly lost his shoe, which he tossed away in a 
passion, for having been caught out, owing to the ball 
glancing against it. These, together with a very com- 
plete somerset of Ben Appleton, our long-stop, who 
floundered about in the mud, making faces and atti- 
tudes as laughable as Grimaldi, none could tell whether 
by accident or design, were the chief incidents of the 
scene of action. Amongst the spectators nothing re- 
markable occurred, beyond the general calamity of 
two or three drenchings, except that a form, placed by 
the side of a hedge, under a very insufficient shelter, 
was knocked into the ditch, in a sudden rush of the 
cricketers to escape a pelting shower, by which means 
all parties shared the fate of Ben Appleton, some on 
land and some by water ; and that, amidst the scram- 
1ble, a saucy gipsy of a girl contrived to steal, from 
the knee of the demure and well-apparelled Samuel 
Long, a smart handkerchief^ which his careful dame 
had tied around it, to preserve his new (what is the 
mincing feminine word ?) his new— inexpressibles ; 
5 



A COUNTRY CRTCKET-MATCH. 16S 

thus reversing the story of Desdemona, and causing 
the new Othello to call aloud for his handkerchief, to 
the great diversion of the company. And so we 
parted ; the players retired to their supper, and we 
to our homes ; all wet through, all good-humoured, 
and all happy — except the losers. 

To-day we are happy too. Hats, with ribands in 
them, go glancing up and down ; and William Grey 
says, with a proud humility, " We do not challenge 
any parish ; but, if we be challenged, we are ready." 




M 



TOM CORDERY. 



There are certain things and persons that seem as if 
they could never die : things of such vigour and 
hardiness, that they seem constituted for an intermin- 
able duration, a sort of immortality. An old pollard 
oak of my acquaintance used to give me this impres- 
sion. Never was tree so gnarled, so knotted, so full 
of crooked life. Garlanded with ivy and woodbine, 
almost bending under the weight of its own rich 
leaves and acorns, tough, vigorous, lusty, concentrat- 
ing as it were the very spirit of vitality into its own 
curtailed proportions, — could that tree ever die? I 
have asked myself twenty times, as I stood looking on 
the deep water over which it hung, and in which it 
seemed to live again — would that strong dwarf ever 
fall ? Alas ! the question is answered. Walking by 
the spot to-day — this very day — there it lay prostrate ; 
the ivy still clinging about it, the twigs swelling with 
sap, and putting forth already the early buds. There 
it lay a victim to the taste and skill of some admirer 



TOM CORDEKY. 165 

of British woods, who with the tact of Ugo Foscolo 
(that prince of amateurs) has discovered in the knots 
and gnarls of the exterior coat the leopard-like beauty 
which is concealed within the trunk. There it lies, a 
type of sylvan instability, fallen like an emperor. 
Another piece of strong nature in a human form used 
to convey to me exactly the same feeling — and he is 
gone too ! Tom Cordery is dead. The bell is tolling 
for him at this very moment. Tom Cordery dead I 
the words seem almost a contradiction. One is 
tempted to send for the sexton and the undertaker, to 
undig the grave, to force open the cofRn-lid— there 
must be some mistake. But, alas ! it is too true ; the 
typhus fever, that axe which levels the strong as the 
weak, has hewed him down at a blow. Poor Tom 
Cordery ! 

This human oak grew on the wild North-of-Hamp- 
shire country, of which I have before made honour- 
able mention ; a country of heath, and hill, and forest, 
partly reclaimed, inclosed, and planted by some of the 
greater proprietors, but for the most part uncultivated 
and uncivilised ; a proper refuge for wild animals of 
every i^pecies. Of these the most notable was my 
friend Tom Cordery, who presented in his own person 
no unfit emblem of the district in which he lived — 
the gentlest of savages, the wildest of civilised men. 
He was by calling rat-catcher, hare-finder, and broom^ 



166 TOM CORDERY. 

maker ; a triad of trades which he has substituted for 
the one grand profession of poaching, which he had 
followed in his younger days with unrivalled talent and 
success, arid would, undoubtedly, have pursued till 
his death, had not the bursting of an overloaded gun 
unluckily shot off his left hand. As it was, he still 
contrived to mingle a little of his old unlawful occupa- 
tion with his honest callings ; was a reference of high 
authority amongst the young aspirants, an adviser of 
undoubted honour and secresy — suspected, and more 
than suspected, as being one " who, though he played 
no more, o'erlooked the cards." Yet he kept to 
windward of the law, and indeed contrived to be on 
such terms of social and even friendly intercourse with 
the guardians of the game on M. Common, as may be 
said to prevail between reputed thieves and the myr- 
midons of justice in the neighbourhood of Bow-street. 
Indeed his especial crony, the head-keeper, used some- 
times to hint, when Tom, elevated by ale, had pro- 
voked him by overcrowing, " that a stump was no bad 
shield, and that to shoot off a hand and a bit of an 
arm for a blind, would be nothing to so daring a chap 
as Tom Cordery." This conjecture, never broached 
till the keeper was warm with wrath and liquor, and 
Tom fairly out of hearing, always seemed to me a little 
super-subtle; but it is certain that Tom's new pro- 
fessions did bear rather a suspicious analogy to the 



TOM CORDERY. 167 

old, and the ferrets, and terriers, and mongrels by 
whom he was surrounded, " did really look," as the 
worthy keeper observed, " fitter to find Christian 
hares and pheasants, than rats and such vermin." So 
in good truth did Tom himself. Never did any hu- 
man being look more like that sort of sportsman com- 
monly called a poacher. He was a tall, finely-built 
man, with a prodigious stride, that cleared the ground 
like a horse, and a power of continuing his slow and 
steady speed, that seemed nothing less than miracu- 
lous. Neither man, nor horse, nor dog, could out-tire 
him. He had a bold, undaunted presence, and aft 
evident strength and power of bone and muscle. You 
might see by looking at him, that he did not know 
what fear meant. In his youth he had fought more 
battles than any man in the forest. He was as if born 
without nerves, totally insensible to the recoils and 
disgusts of humanity. I have known him take up a 
huge adder, cut off its head, and then deposit the 
living and writhing body in his brimless hat, and 
walking with it coiling and wreathing about his head, 
like another Medusa, till the sport of the day was 
over, and he carried it home to secure the fat. With 
all this iron stubbornness of nature, he was of a most 
mild and gentle demeanour, had a fine placidity of 
countenance, and a quick blue eye beaming with good 
humoui-. His face was sunburnt into one aeneral 



^ 



168 TOM COKDERY. 

pale vermilion hue that overspread all his features ; 
his very hair was sunburnt too. His costume was 
generally a smock-frock of no doubtful complexion, 
dirt- coloured, which hung round him in tatters like 
fringe, rather augmenting than diminishing the free- 
dom, and, if I may so say, the gallantry of his bearing. 
This frock was furnished with a huge inside pocket, in 
which to deposit the game killed by his patrons — for 
of his three emploj^ments, that which consisted of find- 
ing hares for the great farmers and small gentry, who 
were wont to course on the common, was by far the 
most profitable and most pleasing to him, and to them. 
Every body liked Tom Cordery. He had himself an 
aptness to like, which is almost certain to be repaid in 
kind — the very dogs knew him, and loved him, and 
would beat for him almost as soon as for their master. 
Even May, the most sagacious of greyhounds, appre- 
ciated his talents, and would almost as soon listen 
to Tom sohoing as to old Tray giving tongue. 

Nor was his conversation less agreeable to the other 
part of the company. Servants and masters were 
equally desirous to secure Tom. Besides his general 
and professional familiarity with beasts and birds^ their 
ways and doings, a knowledge so minute and accfirate*, 
that it might have put to shame many a professed natur- 
ralist, he had no small acquaintance with the goings-on 
of that unfeathered biped called man ; in short, he was, 



TOM CORDERY. 169 

nesct after Lucy, who recognised his rivalry by hating, 
decrying, and undervaluing him, by far the best news- 
gatherer of the country side. His news he of course 
picked up on the civilised side of the parish, (there is 
no gossiping in the forest,) partly at that well-fre- 
quented inn the Red Lion, of which Tom was a regu- 
lar and noted supporter — partly amongst his several 
employers, and partly by his pwn sagacity. In the 
matter of marriages, (pairings he was wont to call 
them,) he relied chiefly on his own skill in noting cer- 
tain preliminary indications ; and certainly for a guesser 
by profession and a very bold one, he was astonishingly 
often right. At the alehouse especially, he was of 
the first authority. An air of mild importance, a di- 
plomatic reserve on some points, great smoothness of 
speech, and that gentleness which is so often the re- 
sult of conscious power, made him there an absolute 
ruler. Perhaps the effect of these causes might be a 
little aided by the latent dread which that power in- 
spired in others. Many an exploit had proved that 
Tom Cordery's one arm was fairly worth any two on 
the common. The pommelling of Bob Arlott, and the 
levelling of Jem Serle to the earth by one swing of a 
huge old hare, (which unusual weapon was by the way 
the first-slain of Mayflower, on its way home to us in 
that walking cupboard, his pocket, when the unlucky 
rencontre with Jem Serle broke two heads, the dead 



170 TOM CORDERY. 

and the living,) arguments such as these might have 
some cogency at the Red Lion. 

But he managed every body, as your gentle-mannered 
person is apt to do. Even the rude 'squires and rough 
farmers, his temporary masters, he managed, particu- 
larly as far as concerned the beat, and was sure to bring 
them round to his own peculiar fancies or prejudices, 
however strongly their own wishes might turn them 
aside from the direction indicated, and however often 
Tom's sagacity in that instance might have been found 
at fault. Two spots in the large wild inclosures into 
which the heath had been divided were his especial fa- 
vourites ; the Hundred Acres, alias the Poor Allot- 
ment, alias the Burnt Common— (Do any or all of these 
titles convey any notion of* the real destination of that 
many-named place ? a piece of moor land portioned 
out to serve for fuel to the poor of the parish) — this 
was one. Oh the barrenness of this miserable moor I 
Flat, marshy, dingy, bare. Here that piece of green 
treachery, a bog ; there parched, and pared, and 
shrivelled, and black with smoke and ashes ; utterly 
desolate and wretched every where, except where 
amidst the desolation blossomed, as in mockery, the 
enamelled gentianella* No hares ever came there ; they 
had too much taste. Yet thither would Tom lead his 
unwary employers ; thither, however warned, or cau- 
tioned, or experienced, would he by reasoning or in- 



TOM CORDERY. 171 

duction, or gentle persuasion, or actual fraud, entice 
the hapless gentlemen ; and then to see hira with his 
rabble of finders pacing up and down this precious 
" sitting-ground," (for so was Tom, thriftless liar, wont 
to call it,) pretending to look for game, counterfeiting 
a meuse ; forging a form ; and telling a story some ten 
years old of a famous hare once killed in that spot by 
his honour's favourite bitch Marygold. I never could 
thoroughly understand whether it were design, a fear 
that too many hares might be killed, or a real and honest 
mistake, a genuine prejudice in favour of the place, 
that influenced Tom Cordery in this point4 Half the 
one, perhaps, and half the other. Mixed motives, let 
Pope and his disciples say what they will, are by far 
the commonest in this parti-coloured world. Or he 
had shared the fate of greater men, and lied till he be- 
lieved — a coursing Cromwell, beginning in hypocrisy 
and ending in fanaticism. Another pet spot was the 
Gallows-piece, an inclosure almost as large as the Hun- 
dred Acres, where a gibbet had once borne the bodies 
of two murderers, with the chains and bones, even in 
my remembrance, clanking and creaking in the wind. 
The gibbet was gone now ; but the name remained, and 
the feeling, deep, sad, and shuddering. The place, 
too, was wild, awful, fearful ; a heathy, furzy spot, 
sinking into broken hollows, where murderers might 
lurk; a few withered pines at the upper end, and 



17^ , , TOM CORDERY. 

amongst them, half hidden by the brambles, the stone 
in which the gallows had been fixed ; — the bones must 
have been mouldering beneath. All Tom's eloquence, 
seconded by two capital courses, failed to drag me 
thither a second time. 

Tom was not, however, without that strong sense 
of natural beauty which they who live amongst the 
wildernesses and fastnesses of nature so often exhibit. 
One spot, where the common trenches on the civilized 
world, was scarcely less his admiration than mine. It 
is a high hill, half covered with furze, and heath, and 
broom, and sinking abruptly down to a large pond, al- 
most a lake, covered with wild water fowl. The ground, 
richly clothed with wood, oak, and beech, and elm, 
rises on the other side with equal abruptness, as if shut- 
ting in those glassy waters from ail but the sky, which 
shines so brightly in their clear bosom : just in the bot- 
tom peeps a small sheltered farm, whose wreaths of 
light smoke and the white glancing wings of the wild 
ducks, as they flit across the lake, are all that give to- 
ken of motion or of life. I have stood there in utter 
oblivion of greyhound or of hare, till moments have 
swelled to minutes, and minutes to hours ; and so has 
Tom, conveying, by his exclamations of delight SuPits 
"pleasantness," exactly the same feeling which a poet 
or a painter (for it breathes the very spirit of calm and 
sunshiny beauty that a master-painter loves) would e3c- 



mcy 



TOM CORDERY. 17 

press by different but not truer praise. He called his 
own home " pleasant" too ; and there, though one loves 
to hear any home so called-— there, I must confess, that 
favourite phrase, which I like almost as well as they 
who have no other, did seem rather misapplied. And 
yet it was finely placed, very finely. It stood in a sort 
of defile, where a road almost perpendicular wound 
from the top of a steep abrupt hill, crowned with a tuft 
of old Scottish firs, into a dingle of fern and wild brush- 
wood. A shallow, sullen stream oozed from the bank 
on one side, and, after forming a rude channel across 
the road, sank into a dark, deep pool, half hidden 
amongst the sallows. Behind these sallows, in a nook 
between them and the hill, rose the uncouth and shape- 
less cottage of Tom Cordery. It is a scene which hangs 
upon the eye and the memory, striking, grand, almost 
sublime, and above all eminently foreign. No English 
painter would choose such a subject for an English 
landscape ; no one in a picture would take it for Eng- 
lish. It might pass for one of those scenes which have 
furnished models to Salvator Rosa. Tom's cottage 
was, however, very thoroughly national and charac- 
teristic ; a low, ruinous hovel, the door of which was 
fastened with a sedulous attention to security, that con- 
trasted strangely with the tattered thatch of the roof, 
and the half broken windows. No garden, no pigsty, 



174 TOM CORDERY. 

no pens for geese, none of the usual signs of cottage 
habitation : — yet the house was covered with non- 
descript dwellings, and the very walls were animate 
with their extraordinary tenants ; pheasants, partridges, 
rabbits, tame wild ducks, half tame hares, and their 
enemies by nature and education, the ferrets, terriers, 
and mongrels, of whom his retinue consisted. Great 
ingenuity had been evinced in keeping separate these 
jarring elements ; and by dint of hutches, cages, fences, 
kennel, and half a dozen little hurdled inclosures re- 
sembling the sort of courts which children are apt to 
build round their card-houses, peace was in general to- 
lerably well preserved. Frequent sounds, however, of 
fear or of anger^ as their several instincts were aroused, 
gave token that it was but a forced and hollow truce, 
and at such times the clamour was prodigious. Tom 
had the remarkable tenderness for animals when do- 
mesticated, which is so often found in those whose sole 
vocation seems to be their destruction in the field ; and 
the one long, straggling, unceiled, barn-like roomj, 
which served for kitchen, bed-chamber, and hall, was 
cumbered with bipeds and quadrupeds of all kinds and 
descriptions — the sick, the delicate, the newly caught, 
the lying-in. In the midst of this menagerie sate Tom's 
wife, (for he was married, though without a family- 
married to a woman lame of a leg as he himself was mi~ 



TOM CORDERY. 175 

iius an arm,) now trying to quiet her noisy inmates, now 
to outscold them. How long his friend the keeper 
would have continued to wink at this den of live game, 
none can say : the roof fairly fell in during the deep 
snow of last winter, killing, as poor Tom observed, two 
as fine litters of rabbits as ever were kittened. Re- 
motely, I have no doubt that he himself fell a sacrifice 
to this misadventure. The overseer, to whom he ap- 
plied to re-instate his beloved habitation, decided that 
the walls would never bear another roof, and removed 
him and his wife, as an especial favour, to a tidy, snug, 
comfortable room in the workhouse. The workhouse ! 
From that hour poor Tom visibly altered. He lost his 
hilarity and independence. It was a change such as he 
had himself often inflicted, a complete change of habits, 
a transition from the wild to the tame. No labour was 
demanded of him ; he went about as before, finding 
hares, killing rats, selling brooms, but the spirit of the 
man was departed. He talked of the quiet of his old 
abode, and the noise of the new ; complained of chil- 
dren and other bad company ; and looked down on his 
neighbovirs with the sort of contempt with which a 
cock pheasant might regard a barn-door fowl. Most of 
all did he, braced into a gipsey-like defiance of wet and 
cold, grumble at the warmth and dryness of his apart- 
ment. He used to foretell that it would kill him, and 



170 TOM CORDERY, 

assuredly it did so. Never could the typhus fever have 
found out that wild hill side, or have lurked under that 
broken roof. The free touch of the air would have 
chased the daemon. Alas, poor Tom! warmth, and 
snugness, and comfort, whole windows, and an entire 
ceiling, were the death of him. Alas, poor Tom ! 



AN OLD BACHELOR. 



There is no effect of the subtle operation of the asso- 
ciation of ideas more universal and more curious than 
the manner in which the most trivial circumstances re- 
call particular persons to our memory. Sometimes 
these glances of recollection are purely pleasurable. 
Thus I have a double liking for May-day, as being the 
birth-day of a dear friend whose fair idea bursts upon me 
with the first sunbeam of that glad morning ; and I can 
never hear certain airs of Mozart and Handel without 
seeming to catch an echo of that sweetest voice in which 
I first learnt to love them. Pretty often, however, the 
point of association is less elegant, and occasionally it is 
tolerably ludicrous. We happened to-day to have for 
dinner a couple of wild-ducks, the first of the season ; 
and as the master of the house, who is so little of an epi- 
cure that I am sure he would never while he lived, out of 
its feathers, knov*^ a wild-duck from a tame, — whilst he, 
with a little affectation of science, was squeezing the 
lemon and mixing Cayenne pepper with the gravy, two 

N 



178 AN OLD BACHELOR. 

of US exclaimed in a breath, " Poor Mr. Sidney!" — 
** Aye," rejoined the squeezer of lemons, '' poor Sid- 
ney ! I think he would have allowed that these ducks 
were done even to half a turn." And then he told the 
story more elaborately to a young visitor, to whom Mr. 
Sidney was unknown; — how, after eating the best 
parts of a couple of wild- ducks, which all the company 
pronounced to be the finest and the best dressed wild- 
ducks ever brought to table, that judicious critic in the 
gastronomic art limited the too-sweeping praise by 
gravely asserting, that the birds were certainly excel- 
lent, and that the cookery would have been excellent 
also, had they not been roasted half a turn too much. 
Mr. Sidney has been dead these fifteen years ; but no 
wild-ducks have ever appeared on our homely board 
without recalling that observation. It is his memorable 
saying ; his one good thing. 

Mr. Sidney was, as might be conjectured, an epi- 
cure ; he was also an old bachelor, a clergyman, and 
senior fellow of * * College, a post which he had 
long filled, being, although only a second son, so well 
provided for that he could afford to reject living after 
living in expectation of one favourite rectory, to which 
he had taken an early fancy from the pleasantness of 
the situation and the imputed salubrity of the air. Of 
the latter quality, indeed, he used to give an instance, 
which, however satisfactory as confirming his pre- 



AN OLD BACHELOR. 179 

possession, could hardly have been quite agreeable, as 
preventing him from gratifying it ; — namely, the extra- 
ordinary and provoking longevity of the incumbent, 
who at upwards of ninety gave no sign of decay, and 
bade fair to emulate the age of old Parr. 

Whilst waiting for the expected living, Mr. Sidney, 
who disliked a college residence, built himself a very 
pretty house in our neighbourhood, which he called his 
home ; and where he lived, as much as a love of Bath 
and Brighton and London and lords would let him. He 
counted many noble families amongst his near con- 
nexions, and passed a good deal of his time at their 
country seats — a life for which he was by character and 
habit peculiarly fitted. 

In person he was a tall stout gentlemanly man, 
" about fifty, or by 'r lady inclining to threescore," with 
fine features, a composed gravity of countenance and 
demeanour, a bald head most accurately powdered, and 
a very graceful bow — quite the pattern of an elderly 
man of fashion. His conversation was in excellent 
keeping with the calm imperturbability of his counte- 
nance and the sedate gravity of his manner, — smooth, 
dull, common-place, exceedingly safe, and somewhat 
imposing. He spoke so little, that people really fell 
into the mistake of imagining that he thought ; and the 
tone of decision with which he would advance some se- 
cond-hand opinion, was well calculated to confirm the 

N 2 



180 AN OLD BACHELOR. 

mistake. Gravity was certainly his chief characteristic, 
and yet it was not a clerical gravity either. He had 
none of the generic marks of his profession. Although 
perfectly decorous in life and word and thought, no 
stranger ever took Mr. Sidney for a clergyman. He 
never did any duty any where, that ever I heard of, 
except the agreeable duty of saying grace before din- 
ner ; and even that was often performed by some lay 
host, in pure forgetfulness of his guest's ordination. 
Indeed, but for the direction of his letters, and an eye 
to * * * Rectory, I am persuaded that the circumstance 
might have slipped out of his own recollection. 

His quality. of old bachelor was more perceptible. 
There lurked under all his polish, well covered but not 
concealed, the quiet selfishness, the little whims, the 
precise habits, the primness and priggishness of that 
disconsolate condition. His man Andrews, for instance, 
valet, groom, and body-servant abroad ; butler, cook, 
caterer, and major domo at home ; tall, portly, pow- 
dered and black-coated as his master, and like him in 
all things but the knowing pig-tail which stuck out ho- 
rizontally above his shirt-collar, giving a ludicrous 
dignity to his appearance ; — Andrews, who, constant as 
the dial pointed nine, carried up his chocolate and 
shaving water, and regular as '* the chimes at mid- 
night," prepared his white-wine whey ; who never for- 
got his gouty shoe in travelling, (once for two days he 



AN OLD BACHELOR. 181 

had a slight touch of that gentlemanly disorder,) and 
never gave him the newspaper unaired ;— to whom could 
this jewel of a valet, this matchless piece of clock- 
work belong, but an old bachelor ? And his little dog 
Viper, unparagoned of terriers, black, sleek, sharp, 
and shrewish ; who would beg and sneeze and fetch 
and carry like a Christian ; eat olives and sweetmeats 
and mustard, drink coffee and wine and liqueurs ; — 
who but an old bachelor could have taught Viper his 
multifarious accomplishments ? 

Little Viper was a most useful person in his way ; 
for although Mr. Sidney was a very creditable ac- 
quaintance to meet on the King's highway, (your dull 
man, if he rides well, should never think of dismount- 
ing,) or even on the level ground of a carpet in the 
crowd of a large party ; yet when he happened to drop 
in to take a family dinner-— a pretty frequent habit of 
his when in the country — then Viper's talents were in- 
estimable in relieving the ennui occasioned by that 
grave piece of gentility his master, " not only dull in 
himself, but the cause o^ dullness in others." Any thing 
to pass away the heavy hours, till whist or piquet re- 
lieved the female world from his intolerable silence. 

In other respects these visits were sufficiently per- 
plexing. Every housewife can tell what a formidable 
guest is an epicure who comes to take pot-luck— how 
sure it is to be bad luck, especially when the unfortu- 



182 AN OLD BACHELOR. 

nate hostess lives five miles from a market town. Mr. 
Sidney always came unseasonably, on washing-day, or 
Saturday, or the day before a great party. So sure as 
we had a scrap dinner, so sure came he. My dear mo- 
ther, who with true benevolence and hospitality cared 
much for her guest's comfort and nothing for her own 
pride, used to grieve over his discomfiture, and try all 
that could be done by potted meats and omelettes, and 
little things tossed up on a sudden to amend the bill of 
fare. But cookery is an obstinate art, and will have its 
time ; — however you may force the component parts, 
there is no forcing a dinner. Mr. Sidney had the evil 
habit of arriving just as the last bell rang ; and in spite 
of all the hurry scurry in the kitchen department, tlie 
new niceties and the old homely dishes were sure to 
disagree. There was a total want of keeping. The 
kickshaws were half raw, the solids were mere rags ; 
the vegetables were cold, the soup was scalding i no 
shallots to the rump steaks ; no mushrooms with the 
broiled chicken ", no fish ; no oysters ; no ice ; no pine-^ 
apples. Poor Mr. Sidney ! He must have had a great 
regard for us to put up with our bad dinners. 

Perhaps the chance of a rubber had something to do 
with his visits to our house. If there be such a thing 
as a ruling passion, the love of whist was his. Cards 
were not merely the amusement, but the business of his 
life. I do not mean as a money-making speculation. ; 



AN OLD BACHELOR. 183 

for although he belonged to a fashionable club in Lon- 
don, and to every card-meeting of decent gentility 
within reach of his country home, he never went beyond 
a regular moderate stake, and could not be induced to 
bet even by the rashest defyer of calculation, or the 
most provoking undervaluer of his play. It always 
seemed to me that he regarded whist as far too im-^ 
portant and scientific a pursuit to be degraded into an 
affair of gambling. It had in his eyes all the dignity of 
a study ; an acquirement equally gentlemanly and cle- 
rical. It was undoubtedly his test of ability. He had 
the value of a man of family and a man of the world, 
for rank, and wealth, and station, and dignities of all 
sorts. No human being entertained a higher respect 
for a king, a prince, a prime minister, a duke, a bishop, 
or a lord. But these were conventional feelings. His 
genuine and unfeigned veneration was reserved for him 
who played a good rubber, a praise he did not easily 
give. He was a capital player himself, and held all his 
country competitors, except one, in supreme and un- 
disguised contempt, which they endured to admiration. 
I wonder they did not send him to Coventry. He was 
the most disagreeable partner in the world, and nearly 
as unpleasant an adversary ; for he not only enforced 
the Pythagorean law of silence, which makes one hate 
whist so, but used to distribute quite impartially to 
every one at table little disagreeable observations on 



184 AN OLD BACHELOR. 

every card they played. It was not scolding, or grum- 
bling, or fretting ; one has a sympathy with those ex- 
pressions of feeling, and at the worst can scold again ; 
it was a smooth polite commentary on the errors of the 
party, delivered in the calm tone of undoubted supe- 
riority with which a great critic will sometimes take a 
small poet, or a batch c^ poets, to task in a review. 
How the people could bear it!— but the world is a 
good-natured world, and does not like a man the less 
for treating it scornfully. 

So passed six evenings out of the seven with Mr. 
Sidney ; for it was pretty well known that, on the rare 
occurrence of his spending a day at home without com- 
pany, his fac-totum Andrews used to have the honour 
of being beaten by his master in a snug game at double 
dumby ; but what he did with himself on Sunday occa- 
sioned me some speculation. Never in my life did I 
see him take up a book, although he sometimes talked 
of Shakspeare and Milton, and Johnson and Burke, in 
a manner which proved that he had heard of such 
things ; and as to the newspaper, which he did read, that 
was generally conned over long before night ; besides 
he never exhibited spectacles, and I have a notion that 
he could not read newspaper type at night without 
them. Flow he could possibly get through the after- 
coffee hours on a Sunday puzzled me long. Chance 
solved the problem. He came to call on us after 



AN OLD BACHELOR. 185 

church, and agreed to dine and sleep at our house. The 
moment tea was over, without the slightest apology or 
attempt at conversation, he drew his chair to the lire, 
set his feet on the fender, and fell fast asleep in the 
most comfortable and orderly manner possible. It was 
evidently a weekly habit. Every Sense and limb seemed 
composed to it. Viper looked up in his face, curled 
himself round on the hearth rug, and went to sleep 
too ; and Andrews, just as the clock struck twelve, 
came in to wake him, that he might go to bed. It was 
clearly an invariable custom ; a settled thing. 

His house and grounds were kept in the neatest man- 
ner possible. There was something even disagreeable 
in the excessive nicety, the Dutch preciseness of the 
shining gravel walks, the smooth shaven turf of the 
lawn, and the fine sifted mould of the shrubberies. A 
few dead leaves or scattered flowers, even a weed or 
two, any thing to take away from the artificial toy-like 
look of the place, would have been an improvement, 
Mr. Sidney, however, did not think so. He actually 
caused his gardener to remove those littering plants 
called roses and gum cistuses. Other flowers fared 
little better. No sooner were they in bloom, than he 
pulled them up for fear they should drop. In doors, 
matters were still worse. The rooms and furniture 
were very handsome, abounding in the luxurious Tur- 
key carpets, the sofas, easy chairs, and ottomans. 



186 AN OLD BACHELOR. 

which his habits required ; and yet I never in my life 
saw any house which looked less comfortable. Every 
thing was so constantly in its place, so provokingly in 
order, so full of naked nicety, so thoroughly old-bache- 
lorish. No work ! no books ! no music ! no flowers ! 
But for those two things of life. Viper and a sparkling 
fire, one might have thought the place uninhabited. 
Once a year, indeed, it gave signs of animation, in the 
shape of a Christmas party. That was Mr. Sidney's 
shining time. Nothing could exceed the smiling hos- 
pitality of the host, or the lavish profusion of the en- 
tertainment. It breathed the very spirit of a welcome 
splendidly liberal ; and little Viper frisked and bounded, 
and Andrews's tail vibrated (I was going to say w^agged) 
with cordiality and pleasure. Andrews, on these oc- 
casions, laid aside his " customary black" in favour of 
a blue coat and a white silk court waistcoat, with a 
light running pattern of embroidery and silver span- 
gles, assumed to do honour to his master and the com* 
pany. How much he enjoyed the applause which the 
wines and the cookery elicited from the gentlemen ; 
and how anxiously he would direct the ladies' attention 
to a MS. collection of riddles, the compilation of some 
deceased countess, laid on the drawing-room table for 
their amusement between dinner and tea. Once, I re- 
member, he carried his attention so far as to produce 
a gone-by toy, called a bandalore, for the recreation of 



AN OLD BACHELOR. 187 

myself and another little girl, admitted by virtue of the 
Christmas holidays to this annual festival. Poor An- 
drews ! I am convinced that he considered the enter- 
tainment of the visitors quite as much his affair as his 
master's ; and certainly they both succeeded. Never 
did parties pass more pleasantly. On those evenings 
Mr. Sidney even forgot to find fault at whist. 

At last, towards the end of a severe winter, during 
which he had suffered much from repeated colds, the 
rectory of * * * became vacant, and our worthy neigh- 
bour hastened to take possession. The day before his 
journey he called on us in the highest spirits, antici- 
pating a renewal of health and youth in this favourite 
spot, and approaching nearer than I had ever heard 
him to a jest on the subject of looking out for a wife. 
Married or single, he made us promise to visit him 
during the ensuing summer. Alas ! long before the 
summer arrived, our poor friend was dead. He had 
waited for this living thirty years ; he did not enjoy it 
thirty days. 



A VILLAGE BEAU. 



The finest young man in our village is undoubtedly 
Joel Brent, half-brother to my Lizzy. They are 
alike too ; as much alike as a grown-up person and 
a little child of different sexes well can be ; alike 
in a vigorous uprightness of form, light, firm, and 
compact as possible ; alike in the bright, sparkling, 
triumphant blue eye, the short-curled upper lip, the 
brown wavy hair, the white forehead and sunburnt 
cheeks, and above all, in the singular spirit and gaiety 
of their countenance and demeanour, the constant ex- 
pression of life and glee, to which they owe the best 
and rarest part of their attractiveness. They seem, 
and they are two of the happiest and merriest creatures 
that ever trode on the greensward. Really to see 
Joel walking by the side of his team, (for this enviable 
mortal, the pride of our village, is by calling a carter), 
to see him walking, on a fine sunny morning, by the 
side of his bell-team, the fore-horse decked with rib- 
bons and flowers like a countess on the birth-day, as 



A VILLAGE BEAU. 189 

consciously handsome as his driver, the long whip 
poised gracefully on his shoulder, his little sister in his 
hand, and his dog Ranger (a beautiful red and white 
spaniel — every thing that belongs to Joel is beautiful) 
frisking about them ; — to see this group, and to hear 
the merry clatter formed by Lizzy's tongue, Joel's 
whistling, and Ranger's delighted bark, is enough to 
put an amateur of pleasant sounds and happy faces in 
good humour for the day. 

It is a grateful sight in other respects, for Joel is a 
very picturesque person, just such an one as a painter 
would select for the fore-ground of some English 
landscape, where nature is shewn in all her loveliness. 
His costume is the very perfection of rustic coquetry, 
of that grace, which all admire and few practice, the 
grace of adaptation, the beauty of fitness. No one 
ever saw Joel in that wretched piece of deformity a 
coat, or that still wretcheder apology for a coat a dock- 
tailed jacket. Broad-cloth, the " common stale " of 
peer and peasant, approaches him not ; neither does 
" the poor creature " fustian. His upper garment con- 
sists of that prettier jacket without skirts, call it for 
the more grace a doublet, of dark velveteen, hanging 
open over his waistcoat, giving a Spanish or an Italian 
air to his whole appearance, and setting off to great 
advantage his trim yet manly shape. To this he adds 
a silk handkerchief, tied very loosely round his neck, 



190 A VILLAGE BEAU. 

a shirt collar open so as to shew his throat, as you 
commonly see in the portraits of artists, very loose 
trowsers, and a straw hat. Sometimes in cold wea- 
ther he throws over all a smock-frock, and last winter 
brought up a fashion amongst our lads, by assuming 
one of that blue hight Waterloo, such as butchers 
wear. As soon as all his comrades had provided 
themselves with a similar piece of rustic finery, he 
abandoned his, and indeed generally sticks to his vel- 
veteen jacket, which, by some magical influence of 
cleanliness and neatness, always looks new. I cannot 
imagine how he contrives it, but dirt never hangs upon 
Joel ; even a fall at cricket in the summer, or a tumble 
on the ice in the winter, fails to soil him ; and he is so 
ardent in his diversions, and so little disposed to let 
his coxcombry interfere with his sports, that both have 
been pretty often tried ; the former especially. 

Ever since William Grey's secession, which took 
place shortly after our great match, for no cause as- 
signed, Joel has been the leader and chief of our 
cricketers. Perhaps, indeed, JoeFs rapid improve- 
ment might be one cause of William's withdrawal, for, 
without attributing any thing like envy or jealousy to 
tKese fine young men, we all know that " two stars 
keep not their motion in one sphere," and so forth, 
and if it were absolutely necessary that either our 
" Harry Hotspur, or the Prince of Wales," should abdi- 



A VILLAGE BEAU. 191 

cate that fair kingdom the cricket-ground, I must say 
that I am content to retain our present champion. 
Joel is in my mind the better player, joining to Wil- 
liam's agility, and certainty of hand and eye, all the 
ardour, force, and gaiety of his own quick and lively 
spirit. The whole man is in the game, mind and 
body ; and his success is such as dexterity and enthu- 
siasm united must always command. To be sure he 
is a leetle over eager, that I must confess, and does 
occasionally run out a slow mate ; but he is sure to 
make up for it by his own exertions, and after all what 
a delightful fault zeal is ! Now that we are on the 
subject of faults, it must be said, not that Joel has his 
share, which is of course, but that they are exceed- 
ingly venial, little shades that become him, and arise 
out of his brighter qualities as smoke from the flame. 
Thus, if he sometimes steals one of his active holidays 
for a revel or a cricket-match, he is sure to make up 
the loss to his master by a double portion of labour 
the next day ; and if now and then at tide-times he 
loiters in the chimney-corner of the Rose, rather 
longer than strict prudence might warrant, no one can 
hear his laugh and his song pouring through the open 
door, like the very voice of " jest and youthful jol- 
lity," without feeling certain that it is good fellowship, 
and not good liquor, that detains him. Indeed so 
much is he the delight of the country lads, who fre- 

1 



192 A VILLAGE BEAU. 

quent that well-accustomed inn, so much is his com- 
pany sought after in all rustic junketings, that I am 
only astonished at the strength of resolution, and 
power of resisting temptation, which he displays in 
going thither so seldom. 

If our village lads be so fond of him, it is not to be 
doubted but our village maidens like him too. The 
pretty brunette, Sally Wheeler, who left a good ser- 
vice at B., to take in needle- work, and come home to 
her grandmother, she being, to use Sally's phrase, 
*' unked for want of company," (N. B. Dame Wheeler 
is as deaf as a post, a cannon would not rouse her), is 
thought, in our little world, to have had an eye to 
Joel in this excess of dutifulness. Miss PhcBbe, the 
lass of the Rose, she also, before her late splendid 
marriage to the patten-maker, is said to have becurled 
and beflounced herself at least two tiers higher on 
club-nights, and Sundays, and holidays, and whenever 
there was a probable chance of meeting him. The 
gay recruiting serjeant, and all other beaux were 
abandoned the instant he appeared ; nay, it is even 
hinted, that the patten-maker owes his fair bride partly 
to pique at Joel's indifference. Then Miss Sophia 
Matthews, the schoolmistress on the Lea, to whom in 
point of dignity Miss Phoebe was as nothing, who 
wears a muff and a veil, walks mincingly, and tosses 
her head in the air, keeps a maid, — a poor little drab 



A VILLAGE BEAU.. 19S 

of ten years old j follows, as she says, a genteel pro- 
fession, — I think she may have twenty scholars at 
eight-pence a week ; and when she goes to dine with 
her brother, the collar-maker, hires a boy for a penny 
to carry her clogs ; — Miss Sophia, it is well known, 
hath pretermitted her dignity in the matter of Joel ; 
hath invited the whole family to tea, (only think of 
Joel at a tea-party !) hath spoken of him as " a person 
above the common ; a respectable young man ^ one, 
who with a discreet and accomplished wife, a woman 
of reading and education," (Miss Sophia, in the days 
of her father, the late collar-maker of happy memory, 
before she " taught the young idea how to shoot," 
had herself drunk deeply at that well of knowledge, 
the circulating library of B.) " not too young," (Miss 
Sophia calls herself twenty-eight — I wonder what 
the register says !) *' no brazen-faced gipsey, like 
Sally Wheeler," (Miss Sophia's cast of countenance is 
altogether different from Sally's dark and sparkling 
beauty, she being pink-eyed, red-haired, lean, pale 

and freckled) " or the j ill-flirt Phoebe"^ ^but to cut 

short an oration which, in spite of the lady's gentility, 
began to grow rather scurrilous, one fact was certain, 
—that Joel might, had he so chosen, have worn the 
crown matrimonial in Miss Sophia's territories, con- 
sisting of a freehold-cottage, a little the worse for 
wear, a good garden, a capital orchard, and an exten- 

o 



194 A VILLAGE BEAU. 

sive right of common ; to say nothing of the fair dam- 
sel and her school, or, as she is accustomed to call it, 
her seminary. 

Joel's proud bright eye glanced, however, carelessly 
over all. There was little perceptible difference of 
feeling in the gay distant smile, with which he re- 
garded the coquettish advances of the pretty brunette, 
Sally Wheeler, or the respectful bow with which he 
retreated from the dignified condescension of Miss 
Sophia. He fluttered about our village belles like a 
butterfly over a bed of tulips ; sometimes approaching 
them for a moment, and seeming ready to fix, but 
oftener above and out of reach, a creature of a spright- 
lier element, too buoyant and volatile to light on an 
earthly flower. At last, however, the rover was 
caught ; and our damsel, Harriet, had the glory of win- 
ning that indomitable heart. 

Now Harriet is in all things Lucy's successor ; in 
post, and favour, and beauty, and lovers. In my eye 
she is still prettier than Lucy ; there is something so 
feminine and so attractive in her lovehness. She is a 
tall young woman finely, though, for eighteen, rather 
fully formed ; with a sweet child-like face, a fair 
blooming complexion, a soft innocent smile, and the 
eye of a dove. Add to this a gentle voice, a quiet 
modest manner, and a natural gentility of appearance, 
and no wonder that Harriet might vie with her pre- 



A VILLAGE BEAU. 195 

decessor in the number of her admirers. She in- 
herited also a spice of her coquetry, although it was 
shewn in so different a way that we did not imme- 
diately find it out. Lucy was a flirt active ; Harriet 
was a flirt passive ; Lucy talked to her beaux ; Harriet 
only listened to her's ; Lucy, when challenged on the 
number of her conquests, denied the thing, and 
blushed, and laughed, and liked to be laughed at ; 
Harriet, on a similar charge, gave no token of liking 
or denial, but said quietly that she could not help it, 
and went on winning hearts by dozens, prodigal of 
smiles but chary of love, till Joel came, " pleased her 
by manners most unlike her own," and gave to her 
delicate womanly beauty the only charms it wanted— 
sensibility and consciousness. 

The manner in which we discovered this new flirta- 
tion, which, unlike her others, was concealed with the 
pretty reserve and mystery that wait on true love, 
was sufficiently curious. We had noted Joel more 
frequently than common about the house : sometimes 
he came for Lizzy ; sometimes to bring news of a 
cricket-match ; sometimes to ask questions about bats 
and balls ; sometimes to see if his dog Ranger had 
followed my May ; sometimes to bring me a nosegay» 
AH this occasioned no suspicion ; we were too glad to 
see Joel to think of enquiring why he came. But 
when the days shortened, and evening closed in dark 

o % 



196 A VILLAGE BEAU. 

and cold before his work was done, and cricket and 
flowers were over, and May and Lizzy safe in their 
own warm beds, and poor Joel's excuses fairly at 
an end ; then it was, that in the after-dinner pause 
about seven, when the clatter of plates and dishes was 
over, that the ornithological ear of the master of the 
house, a dabbler in natural history, was struck by a 
regular and melodious call, the note, as he averred, of 
a sky-lark. That a sky-lark should sing in front of 
our house, at seven o'clock, in a December evening, 
seemed, to say the least, rather startling. But our 
ornithologist happening to agree with Mr. White, of 
Selborne, in the opinion, that many more birds sing 
by night than is commonly supposed, and becoming 
more and more confident of the identity of the note, 
thought the thing possible ; and not being able to dis- 
cover any previous notice of the fact, had nearly in- 
serted it, as an original observation, in the Naturalist's 
Calendar, when running out suddenly one moon-light 
night, to try for a peep at the nocturnal songster, he 
caught our friend Joel, whose accomplishments in this 
line we had never dreamt of, in the act of whistling a 
summons to his lady-love. 

For some weeks our demure coquette listened to 
none but this bird-like wooing ; partly from pride in 
the conquest ; partly from real preference ; and partly, 
J believe^, from a lurking consciousness that Joel was 



A VILLAGE BEAU. 197 

by no means a lover to be trifled with. Indeed he used to 
threaten, between jest and earnest, a ducking in the 
goose-pond opposite, to whoever should presume to 
approach his fair intended ; and the waters being high 
and muddy, and he at all points a formidable rival, 
most of her former admirers were content to stay 
away. At last, however, she relapsed into her old sin 
of listening. A neighbouring farmer gave a ball in 
his barn, to which both our lovers were invited and 
went. Now Harriet loves dancing, and Joel, though 
arrayed in a new jacket, and thin cricketing-pumps, 
would not dance ; he said he could not, but that, as 
Harriet observes, is incredible. I agree with her that 
the gentleman was too fine. He chose to stand and 
look on, and laugh, and make laugh, the whole evea- 
ing. In the meantime his fair betrothed picked up a 
new partner, and a new beau, in the shape of a freshly- 
arrived carpenter, a grand martial-looking figure, as tall 
as a grenadier, who was recently engaged as foreman 
to our civil Wheeler, and who, even if he had heard of 
the denunciation, was of a size and spirit to set Joel 
and the goose-pond at defiance, — David might as well 
have attempted to goose-pond Goliath ! He danced 
the whole evening with his pretty partner, and after- 
wards saw her home ; all of which Joel bore with 
great philosophy. But the next night he came again ; 
and Joel approaching to give his own sky-lark signal, 



198 A VILLAGE BEAU. 

was Startled at seeing another lover leaning over the 
wicket, and his faithless mistress standing at the 
half-open door, listening to the tall carpenter, just as 
complacently as she was wont to do to himself. He 
passed on without speaking, turned down the little 
lane that leads to Dame Wheeler's cottage, and in less 
than two minutes Harriet heard the love-call sounded 
at Sally's gate. The effect was instantaneous ; she 
discarded the tall carpenter at once and for ever, 
locked and bolted the door, and sate down to work or 
to cry in the kitchen. She did not cry long. The 
next night we again heard the note of the skylark- 
louder and more brilliant than ever, echoing across 
OUT court, and the lovers, the better friends for their 
little quarrel, have been as constant as turtle-doves 
ever since. 



WALKS IN THE COUNTRY, 



THE HARD SUMMER. 



August 15th.~— Coldj cloudy, windy, wet. Here 
we are, in the midst of the dog-days, clustering mer- 
rily round the warm hearth, like so many crickets, in- 
stead of chirruping in the green fields like that other 
merry insect the grasshopper ; shivering under the in- 
fluence of the Jupiter Pluvius of England, the watery 
St. Swithin ; peering at that scarce personage the 
sun, when he happens to make his appearance, as in- 
tently as astronomers look after a comet, or the com- 
mon people stare at a balloon ; exclaiming against the 
cold weather, just as we used to exclaim against the 
warm. " What a change from last year !" is the first 
sentence you hear, go where you may. Every body 
remarks it, and every body complains of it ; and yet 
in my mind it has its advantages, or at least its com- 
pensations, as every thing in nature has, if we would 
only take the trouble to seek for them« 



^00 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

Last year, in spite of the love which we are now 
pleased to profess towards that ardent luminary, not 
one of the sun's numerous admirers had courage to 
look him in the face : there was no bearing the world 
till he had said " Good-night " to it. Then we might 
stir ; then we began to wake and to live. All day 
long we languished under his influence in a strange 
dreaminess, too hot to work, too hot to read, too hot 
to write, too hot even to talk ; sitting hour after hour 
in a green arbour, embowered in leafiness, letting 
thought and fancy float as they would. Those day- 
dreams were pretty things in their way ; there is no 
denying that. But then, if one half of the world were 
to dream through a whole summer, like the Sleeping 
Beauty in the Wood, what would become of the other ? 

The only office requiring the slightest exertion, 
which I performed in that warm weather, was water- 
ing my flowers. Common sympathy called for that 
labour. The poor things withered, and faded, and 
pined away ; they almost, so to say, panted for 
drought. Moreover, if I had not watered them my- 
self, I suspect that no one else would ; for water last 
year was nearly as precious hereabout as wine. Our 
land-springs were dried up ; our wells were exhausted ; 
our deep ponds were dwindling into mud ; and geese, 
and ducks, and pigs, and laundresses, used to look 
with a jealous and suspicious eye on the few and 



TPIE HARD SUMMER. £02 

scanty half-buckets of that impure element, which my 
trusty lacquey was fain to filch for my poor geraniums 
and campanulas and tuberoses. We were forced to 
smuggle them in through my faithful adherent's terri- 
tories, the stable, to avoid lectures within doors ; and 
at last even that resource failed ; my garden, my 
blooming garden, the joy of my eyes, was forced to go 
waterless like its neighbours, and became shrivelled, 
scorched, and sunburnt, like them. It really went to 
my heart to look at it. 

On the other side of the house matters were still 
worse. What a dusty world it was when about sunset 
we became cool enough to creep into it ! Flowers in 
the court looking fit for a hortus siccus ; mummies of 
plants, dried as in an oven ; hollyhocks, once pink, 
turned into Quakers ; cloves smelling of dust. Oh 
dusty world ! May herself looked of that complexion ; 
so did Lizzy ; so did all the houses, windows, chickens, 
children, trees, and pigs in the village ; so above all 
did the shoes. No foot could make three plunges 
into that abyss of pulverised gravel, which had the 
impudence to call itself a hard road, without being 
clothed with a coat a quarter of an inch thick. Woe 
to white gowns ! woe to black ! Drab was your only 
wear. 

Then, when we were out of the street, what a toil it 
was to mount the hill, climbing with weary steps and 



202 WALKS IN Tllk. COUNTirfY 

slow iipon the brown turf by the wny-side, slippery, 
hot, and hard as a rock ! And then if we happened 
to meet a carriage coming along the middle of the 
road, — the bottomless middle,-— what a sandy whirl- 
wind it was ! What choking ! what siiifocation ! No 
state could be more pitiable, except indeed that of the 
travellers who carried this misery about with them. I 
shall never forget the plight in which we met the coach 
one evening in last August, full an hour after its time, 
steeds and driver, carriage and passengers, all one 
dust. The outsides and the horses and the coachman, 
seemed reduced to a torpid quietness, the resignation 
of despair. They had left off trying to better their 
condition, and taken refuge in a wise and patient 
hopelessness, bent to endure in silence the extremity 
of ill. The six insides, on the contrary, were still 
fighting against their fate, vainly struggling to ame- 
liorate their hapless destiny. They were visibly grum- 
bling at the w^eather, scolding the dust, and heating 
themselves like a furnace by striving against the heat. 
How well I remember the fat gentleman without his 
coat, who was wiping his forehead, heaving up his wig, 
and certainly uttering that English ejaculation, which, 
to our national reproach, is the phrase of our language 
best known en the continent. And that poor boy, 
red-hot, all in a ilarae, whose mama, having divested 
lier own person of all superfluous apparel, was trying 



THE IlAivD SUMMER. 203 

to relieve his sufferiDgs by the removal of his neck- 
kerchief— an operation which he resisted with all his 
might. How perfectly I remember him, as well as 
the pale girl who sate opposite, fanning herself with 
her bonnet into an absolute fever ! They vanished 
after a while in their own dust ; but I have them all 
before my eyes at this moment, a companion-picture to 
Hogarth's Afternoon, a standing lesson to the grum- 
blers at cold summers. 

For my part, I really like this wet season. It 
keeps us within, to be swre, rather more than is quite 
agreeable ; but then we are at least awake and alive 
there, and the world out of doors is so much the 
pleasanter when we can get abroad. Every thing 
does well, except those fastidious bipeds, men and 
women ; corn ripens, grass grows, fruit is plentiful ; 
there is no lack of birds to eat it, and there has not 
been such a wasp-season these dozen years. My gar- 
den wants no watering, and is more beautiful than 
ever, beating my old rival in that primitive art, the 
pretty wife of the little mason, out and out. Mea- 
sured with mine, her flowers are nought. Look at 
those hollyhocks, like pyramids of roses ; those gat- 
lands of the convolvulus major of all colours, hanging 
around that tall pole, like the wreathy hop-bine ; those 
magnificent dusky cloves, breathing of the Spice 
Islands ; those flaunting double dahlias ; those splen- 



^04 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

did scarlet geraniums, and those fierce and warlike 
flowers the tiger-lilies. Oh how beautiful they are ! 
Besides, the weather clears sometimes — it has cleared 
this evening ; and here are we, after a merry walk up 
the hill, almost as quick as in the winter, bounding 
lightly along the bright green turf of the pleasant 
common, enticed by the gay shouts of a dozen clear 
young voices, to linger awhile, and see the boys play 
at cricket. 

I plead guilty to a strong partiality towards that 
unpopular class of beings, country- boys : I have a 
large acquaintance amongst them, and I can almost 
say, that 1 know good of many and harm of none. In 
general they are an open, spirited, good-humoured 
race, with a proneness to embrace the pleasures and 
eschew the evils of their condition, a capacity for hap- 
piness, quite unmatched in man, or woman, or girl. 
They are patient, too, and bear their fate as scape- 
goats (for all sins whatsoever are laid as matters of 
course to their door, whether at home or abroad), 
with amazing resignation ; and, considering the many 
lies of which they are the objects, they tell wonderfully 
few in return. The worst that can be said of them is, 
that they seldom, when grown to man's estate, keep 
the promise of their boyhood ; but that is a fault to 
come — a fault that may not come, and ought not to be 
anticipated. It is astonishing how sensible they are to 



THE HARD SUMMER. 205 

notice from their betters, or those whom they think 
such. I do not speak of money, or gifts, or praise, 
or the more coarse and common briberies — they aiffe 
more dehcate courtiers ; a word, a nod, a smile, or the 
mere calHng of them by their names, is enough to in- 
sure their hearts and their services. Half-a-dozen of 
them, poor urchins, have run away now to bring us 
chairs from their several homes. " Thank you, Joe 
Kirby ! — you are always first — yes, that is just the 
place. — I shall see every thing there. Have you been 
in yet, Joe ?" — -" No, ma'am ! I go in next." — " Ah, 
I am glad of that — and now's the time. Really that 
was a pretty ball of Jem Eusden's ! — I was sure it 
would go to the wicket. Run, Joe ! They are wait- 
ing for you." There was small need to bid Joe Kirby 
make haste ; I think he is, next to a race-horse, or a 
greyhound, or a deer, the fastest creature that runs — 
the most completely alert and active. Joe is mine 
especial friend, and leader of the " tender juveniles," 
as Joel Brent is of the adults. In both instances 
this post of honour was gained by merit, even more re- 
markably so in Joe's case than in Joel's ; for Joe 
is a less boy than many of his companions, (some of 
whom are fifteeners and sixteeners, quite as tall and 
nearly as old as Tom Coper) and a poorer than all, 
as may be conjectured from the lamentable state of 
that patched round frock, and the ragged condition of 



206 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

those unpatched shoes, which would encumber, if any 
thing could, the light feet that wear them. But why 
should I lament the poverty that never troubles him ? 
Joe is the merriest and happiest creature that ever 
lived twelve years in this wicked world. Care cannot 
come near him. He hath a perpetual smile on his 
round ruddy face, and a laugh in his hazel-eye, that 
drives the witch away. He works at yonder farm on 
the top of the hill, where he is in such repute for in- 
telligence and good-humour, that he has the honour 
of performing all the errands of the house, of helping 
the maid, and the mistress, and the master, in addition 
to his own stated office of carter's boy. There he 
works hard from five till seven, and then he comes 
here to work still harder under the name of play — 
batting, bowling, and fielding, as if for life, filling the 
place of four boys ; being, at a pinch, a whole eleven. 
The late Mr. Knyvett, the king's organist, who used 
in his own person to sing twenty parts at once of the 
hallelujah chorus, so that you would have thought he 
had a nest of nightingales in his throat, was but a type 
of Joe Kirby. There is a sort of ubiquity about him ; 
he thinks nothing of being in two places at once, and 
for pitching a ball William Grey himself is nothing to 
him. It goes straight to the mark like a bullet. He 
is king of the cricketers from eight to sixteen, both 
inclusive, and an excellent ruler he makes. Never- 

7 



THE HARD SUMMER. 207 

tlieless, in the best-ordered states there will be grum- 
blers, and we have an opposition here in the shape of 
Jem Eusden. 

Jem Eusden is a stunted lad of thirteen, or there- 
about, lean, small, and short, yet strong and active. 
His face is of an extraordinary ugliness, colourless, 
withered, haggard, with a look of extreme age, much 
increased by hair so light that it might rather pass for 
white than flaxen. He is constantly arrayed in the 
blue cap and old-fashioned coat, the costume of an 
endowed school to which he belongs ; where he sits 
still all day, and rushes into the field at night, fresh, 
untired, and ripe for action, to scold, and brawl, and 
storm, and bluster. He hates Joe Kirby, whose im- 
moveable good-humour, broad smiles, and knowing 
nods, must certainly be very provoking to so fierce 
and turbulent a spirit ; and he has himself (being, 
except by rare accident, no great player) the prepos- 
terous ambition of wishing to be manager of the 
sports. In short, he is a demagogue in embryo, with 
every quality necessary to a splendid success in that 
vocation, — ^a strong voice, a fliuent utterance, an inces- 
sant iteration, and a frontless impudence. He is a 
great " scholar," too, to use the country phrase ; his 
" piece," as our village-schoolmaster terms a fine sheet 
of flourishing writing, something between a valentine 
and a sampler, enclosed within a border of little 



^08 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

coloured prints— his last, I remember, was encircled 
by an engraved history of Moses, beginning at the 
finding in the bulrushes, with Pharaoh's daughter, 
dressed in a rose-coloured gown and blue feathers— 
his piece is not only the admiration of the school but 
of the parish, and is sent triumphantly around from 
house to house at Christmas, to extort halfpence and 
sixpences from all encouragers of learning — Montem 
in miniature. The Mosaic history was so successful, 
that the produce enabled Jem to purchase a bat and 
ball, which, besides adding to his natural arrogance 
(for the little pedant actually began to mutter against 
being eclipsed by a dunce, and went so far as io 
challenge Joe Kirby to a trial in Practice, or the Rule 
of Three), gave him, when compared with the general 
poverty, a most unnatural preponderance in the cricket 
state. He had the ways and means in his hands — (for, 
alas ! the hard winter had made sad havoc among the 
bats, and the best ball was a bad one) — he had the 
ways and means, could withhold the supplies, and his 
party was beginning to wax strong, when Joe received 
a present of two bats and a ball for the youngsters 
in general, and himself in particular— and Jem's ad- 
herents left him on the spot — they ratted, to a man, 
that very evening. Notwithstanding this desertion, 
their forsaken leader has in nothing relaxed from his 
pretensions, or his ill-humour. He still quarrels and 



THE HARD SUMMER. S09 

m 

brawls as if he had a faction to back him, and thinks no- 
thing of contending with both sides, the ins and the outs, 
secure of out-talking the whole field. He has been 
squabbling these ten minutes, and is just marching off 
now with his own bat (he has never deigned to use one 
of Joe's) in his hand. What an ill-conditioned hob- 
goblin it is ! And yet there is something bold and 
sturdy about him too. I should miss Jem Eusden. 

Ah, there is another deserter from the party ! my 
friend the little hussar— I do not know his name, and 
call him after his cap and jacket. He is a very remark- 
able person, about the age of eight years, the youngest 
piece of gravity and dignity I ever encountered ; short, 
and square, and upright, and slow, with a fine bronzed 
flat visage, resembling those convertible signs the 
Broad-Face and the Saracen's Flead, which, happening 
to be next-door neighbours in the town of B., I never 
know apart, resembling, indeed, any face that is open- 
eyed and immoveable— the very sign of a boy ! He 
stalks about with his hands in his breeches pocket, like 
a piece of machinery ; sits leisurely down when he ought 
to field, and never gets farther in batting than to stop 
the bail. His is the only voice never heard in the me- 
lee; I doubt, indeed, if he have one, which may be 
partly the reason of a circumstance that I record to his 
honour, his fidelity to Jem Eusden, to whom he has 
adhered through every change of fortune with a tena- 



210 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

city proceeding perhaps from an instinctive conscious- 
ness that that loquacious leader talks enough for two. 
He is the only thing resembling a follower that our de- 
magogue possesses, and is cherished by him accord- 
ingly. Jem quarrels for him, scolds for him, pushes 
for him ; and but for Joe Kirby's invincible good hu- 
mour, and a just discrimination of the innocent from 
the guilty, the activity of Jem's friendship would get 
the poor hussar ten drubbings a day. 

But it is growing late. The sun has set a long time. 
Only see what a gorgeous colouring has spread itself 
over those parting masses of clouds in the west, — what 
a train of rosy light! We shall have a fine sunshiny 
day to-morrow, — a blessing not to be undervalued, in 
spite of my late vituperation of heat. Shall we go home 
now ? And shall we take the longest but prettiest road, 
that by the green lanes ? This way, to the left, round 
the corner of the common, past Mrs. Welles's cottage, 
and our path lies straight before us. How snug and 
comfortable that cottage looks ! Its little yard all alive 
with the cow, and the mare, and the colt almost as 
large as the mare, and the young foal, and the great 
yard-dog, all so fat ! Fenced in with hay-rick, and 
wheat-rick, and J}ean-stack, and backed by the long 
garden, the spacious drying-ground, the fine orchard, 
and that large field quartered into four different crops. 
How comfortable this cottage looks, and hQJV well the 



THE HARD SUMMER. 211 

owners earn their comforts ! They are the most pros- 
perous pair in the parish— she a laundress with twenty 
times more work than she can do, unrivalled in flounces 
and shirt-frills, and such delicacies of the craft; he, 
partly a farmer, partly a farmer's man, tilling his own 
ground, and then tilling other people's ; — affording a 
proof, even in this declining age, when the circum- 
stances of so many worthy members of the community 
seem to have " an alacrity in sinking," that it is possi- 
ble to amend them by sheer industry. He, who was 
born in the workhouse, and bred up as a parish boy, 
has now, by mere manual labour, risen to the rank of 
a land-owner, pays rates and taxes, grumbles at the 
times, and is called Master Welles,- — the title next to 
Mister — that by which Shakspeare was called : — what 
would man have more ? His wife, besides being the 
best laundress in the county, is a comely woman still. 
There she stands at the spring, dipping up water for to- 
morrow,— the clear, deep, silent spring, which sleeps 
so peacefully under its high flowery bank, red with the 
tall spiral stalks of the foxglove and their rich pendent 
bells, blue with the beautiful forget-me-not, that gem- 
like blossom, which looks like a living jewel of tur- 
quoise and topaz. It is almost too late to see its 
beauty ; and here is the pleasant shady lane, where 
the high elms will shut out the little twilight that re- 
mains. Ah, but we shall have the fairies' lamps to 

F 2 



^1£ WALKS IN THE COUNTRY, &C. 

guide us, the stars of the earth, the glow-worms 1 
Here they are, three almost together. Do you not see 
them ? One seems tremulous, vibrating, as if on the 
extremity of a leaf of grass ; the others are deeper in 
the hedge, in some green cell on which their light 
falls with an emerald lustre. I hope my friends the 
cricketers will jiot come this way home. I would not 
have the pretty creatures removed for more than I care 
to say, and in this matter I would hardly trust Joe 
Kirby — boys so love to stick them in their hats. But 
this lane is quite deserted. It is only a road from field 
to field. No one comes here at this hour. They are 
quite safe ; and I shall walk here to-morrow and visit 
them again. x\nd now, good-night ! beautiful insects, 
lamps of the fairies, good-night! 



THE TALKING GENTLEMAN, 



The lords of the creation, who axe generally (to do 
them justice) tenacious enough of their distinctive and 
peculiar faculties and powers, have yet by common con- 
sent made over to the females the single gift of loqua- 
city. Every man thinks and says that every woman 
talks more than he : it is the creed of the whole sex, — 
the debates and law reports notwithstanding. And 
every masculine eye that has scanned my title has al- 
ready, I doubt not, looked to the errata, suspecting a 
mistake in the gender; but it is their misconception, 
not my mistake. I do not (Heaven forbid !) intend to 
impugn or abrogate our female privilege ; I do not dis- 
pute that we do excel, generally speaking, in the use 
of the tongue ; I only mean to assert that one gentle- 
man does exist, (whom I have the pleasure of knowing 
intimately,) who stands pre-eminent and unrivalled in 
the art of talking, — unmatched and unapproached by 
man, woman, or child., Since the decease of my poor 
friend " the Talking Lady," who dropped down speech- 



^14 THE TALKING GENTLEMAN. 

less in the midst of a long story about nine weeks ago, 
and was immediately known to be dead by her silence^ 
I should be at a loss where to seek a competitor to con- 
tend with him in a race of words, and I should be still 
more puzzled to find one that can match him in wit, 
pleasantry, or good-humour. 

My friend is usually called Harry L., for, though a 
man of substance, a lord of land, a magistrate, a field 
officer of militia; nobody ever dreamed of calling him 
Mister or major, or by any such derogatory title — he 
is and will be all his life plain Harry, the name of uni- 
versal good-will. He is indeed the pleasantest fellow 
that lives. His talk (one can hardly call it conversa- 
tion, as that would seem to imply another interlocutor, 
something like reciprocity) is an incessant flow of good 
things, like Congreve's comedies without a replying 
speaker, or Joe Miller laid into one ; and its perpetual 
stream is not lost and dispersed by diffusion, but runs 
in one constant channel, playing and sparkling like a 
fountain, the delight and ornament of our good town 
ofB. 

Harry L. is a perfect example of provincial reputa- 
tion, of local fame. There is not an urchin in the town 
that has not heard of him, nor an old woman that does 
not chuckle by anticipation at his approach. The citi- 
zens of B. are as proud of him as the citizens of Ant- 
werp were of the Chapeau de Paille, and they have 



THE TALKING GENTLEMAN. SI 5 

the advantage of the luckless Flemings in the certainty 
that their boast is not to be purchased. Harry, like 
the Flemish Beauty, is native to the spot ; for he was 
born at B., educated at B., married at B. — though, as 
his beautiful wife brought him a good estate in a dis- 
tant part of the country, there seemed at that epoch of 
his history some danger of his being lost to our ancient 
borough ; but he is a social and gregarious animal ; so 
he leaves his pretty place in Devonshire to take care of 
itself, and lives here in the midst of a hive. His tastes 
are not at all rural. He is no sportsman, no farmer, no 
lover of strong exercise. When at B,, his walks are 
quite regular ; from his own house, on one side of the 
town, to a gossip-shop called "literary" on the other, 
where he talks and reads newspapers, and others read 
newspapers and listen : thence he proceeds to another 
house of news, similar in kind, though differing in 
name, in an opposite quarter, where he and his hearers 
undergo the same process, and then he returns home, 
forming a pretty exact triangle of about half a mile. 
This is his daily exercise, or rather his daily walk ; of 
exercise he takes abundance, not only in talking, 
(though that is nearly as good to open the cbest as the 
dumb-bells,) but in a general restlessness and fidgeti- 
ness of person, the result of his ardent and nervous 
temperament, which can hardly endure repose of mind 
or body^ He neither gives rest nor takes it. His 



216 THE TALKING GENTLEMAN. 

company is, indeed, in one sense (only one) fatiguing. 
Listening to him tires you like a journey. You laugh 
till you are forced to lie down. The medical gentlemen 
of the place are aware of this, and are accustomed to 
exhort delicate patients to abstain from Harry's society, 
just as they caution them against temptations in point 
of amusement or of diet — pleasant but dangerous. Cho- 
leric gentlemen should also avoid him, and such as love 
to have the last word ; for, though never provoked 
himself, I cannot deny that he is occasionally tolerably 
provoking, — in politics especially — (and he is an ultra- 
liberal, quotes Cobbett, and goes rather too far) — in 
politics he loves to put his antagonist in a fume, and 
generally succeeds, though it is nearly the only subject 
on which he ever listens to an answer — chiefly I believe 
for the sake of a reply, which is commonly some tren- 
chant repartee, that cuts off the poor answer's head like a 
razor. Very determined speakers would also do well to 
eschew his company— though in general I never met 
with any talker to whom other talkers were so ready 
to give way ; perhaps because he keeps them in such 
cessant laughter, that they are not conscious of their 
silence. To himself the number of his listeners is alto- 
gether unimportant. His speech flows not from vanity 
or lust of praise, but from sheer necessity; — the reser- 
voir is full, and runs over. When he has no one else 
to talk to, he can be content with his own company, 



TIIK TALKING GENTLEMAN. 217 

and talks to himself, being beyond a doubt greater in a 
soliloquy than any man off the stage. Where he is not 
known, this habit sometimes occasions considerable 
consternation and very ridiculous mistakes. He has 
been taken alternately for an actor, a poet, a man in 
love, and a man beside himself. Once in particular, 
at Windsor, he greatly alarmed a philanthropic sentinel 
by holding forth at his usual rate whilst pacing the ter- 
race alone ; and but for the opportune arrival of his 
party, and their assurances that it was only " the gen- 
tleman's w^ay," there was some danger that the bene- 
volent soldier might have been tempted to desert his 
post to take care of him. Even after this explanation, 
he looked with a doubtful eye at our friend, who 
was haranguing himself in great style, sighed and shook 
his head, and finally implored us to look well after him 
till he should be safe off the terrace. — '^ You see. 
Ma'am," observed the philanthropist in scarlet, " it is 
an awkward place for any body troubled with vagaries. 
Suppose the poor soul should take a fancy to jump 
over the wall!" 

In his externals he is a well-looking gentleman of 
forty, or thereabout ; rather thin and rather pale, but 
with no look of ill health, nor any other peculiarity, ex- 
cept the remarkable circumstance of the lashes of one 
eye haing white, which gives a singular non-resem- 
blance to his organs of vision. Every one perceives 



218 THE TALKING GENTLEMAN. 

the want of uniformity, and few detect the cause. Some 
suspect him of what farriers call a wall-eye ; some think 
he squints. He himself talks familiarly of his two eyes, 
the black and the white, and used to liken them to those 
of our fine Persian cat, (now, alas ! no more,) who had, 
in common with his feline countrymen, one eye blue as 
a sapphire, the other yellow as a topaz. The dissimi- 
larity certainly rather spoils his beauty, but greatly 
improves his wit, — I mean the sense of his wit in 
others. It arrests attention, and predisposes to laugh- 
ter ; is an outward and visible sign of the comical. No 
common man has two such eyes. They are made for 
"fun. 

In his occupations and pleasures Harry is pretty 
much like other provincial gentlemen ; loves a rubber, 
and jests all through at aces, kings, queens, and knaves, 
bad cards and good, at winning and losing, scolding 
and praise ; — loves a play, at which he out-talks the 
actors whilst on the stage, — to say nothing of the ad- 
vantage he has over them in the intervals between the 
acts ;- — loves music, as a good accompaniment to his 
grand solo; — loves a contested election above all. 
That is his real element, —that din and uproar and riot 
and confusion ! To ride that whirlwind and direct that 
storm is his triumph of triumphs ! He would make a 
great sensation in parliament himself, and a pleasant 
one. (By the way, he was once in danger of' being 



THE TALKING GENTDEMAN. 219 

turned out of the gallery for setting all around him in 
a roar.) Think what a fine thing it would be for the 
members to have mirth introduced into the body of the 
house ! to be sure of an honest, hearty, good-humoured 
laugh every night during the session ! Besides, Harr}^ 
is an admirable speaker, in every sense of the word. 
Jesting is indeed his forte, because he wills it so to be ; 
and therefore, because he chooses to play jigs and 
country dances on a noble organ, even some of his 
stanchest admirers think he can play nothing else. 
There is no quality of which men so much grudge the 
reputation as versatility of talent. Because he is so 
humorous, they will hardly allow him to be eloquent ; 
and, because he is so very witty, find it difficult to ac- 
count him wise. But let him go where he has not that 
mischievous fame, or let him bridle his jests and rein in 
his humour only for one short hour, and he will pass 
for a most reverend orator, — logical, pathetic, and vi- 
gorous above all. — But how can I wish him to cease 
jesting even for an hour ? Who would exchange the 
genial fame of good-humoured wit for the stern repu- 
tation of wisdom ? Who would choose to be Socrates^ 
if with a wish he could be Harry L. ? 



MRS. MOSSE. 



I DO not know whether I ever hinted to the courteous 
reader that I had been in my younger days, without 
prejudice to my present condition, somewhat of a 
spoiled child. The person who, next after my father 
and mother, contributed most materially to this melan- 
choly catastrophe, was an old female domestic, Mrs. 
Elizabeth Mosse, who, at the time of her death, had 
lived nearly sixty years in our house and that of my 
maternal grandfather. Of course, during the latter 
part of this long period, the common forms and feel- 
ings of servant and master were entirely swept away. 
She was a member of the family, an humble friend — ■ 
happy are they who have such a friend ! — ^living as she 
liked up-stairs or down, in the kitchen or the nursery, 
considered, consulted, and beloved by the whole house- 
hold. 

Mossy (for by that fondling nursery name she best 
liked to be called) had never been married, so that the 



MRS. MOSSE. 221 

family of her master and mistress had no rival in her 
heart, and on me, their only child, was concentrated 
that intensity of affection which distinguishes the at- 
tachments of age. I loved her dearly too, as dearly as 
a spoiled child can love its prime spoiler, — but, oh ! 
how selfish was my love, compared to the depth, the 
purity, the indulgence, the self-denial of hers ! Dear 
Mossy ! I shall never do her justice ; and yet I must 

try- 
Mrs. Mosse, in her appearance, was in the highest 
degree what is called respectable. She must have been 
tall when young ; for even when bent with age, she was 
above the middle height, a large-made though meagre 
woman. She walked with feebleness and difficulty, 
from the attacks of hereditary gout, which not even 
her temperance and activity could ward off. There 
was something very interesting in this tottering help- 
lessness, clinging to the balusters, or holding by doors 
and chairs like a child. It had nothing of vulgar 
lameness; it told of age, venerable age. Out of doors 
she seldom ventured, unless on some very sunny after- 
noon I could entice her into the air, and then once 
round the garden, or to the lawn gate and back again, 
was the extent of her walk, propped by a very aristo- 
cratic walking-stick (once the property of a duchess) as 
tall as herself, with a hooked ivory handle, joined to 
the cane by a rim of gold. Her face was as venerable 



222 _ MRS. MOSSE. 

as her person. She must have been very handsome ; 
indeed she was so still, as far as regular and delicate 
features, a pale brown complexion, dark eyes still re- 
taining the intelligence and animation of youth, and 
an expression perfectly gentle and feminine, could make 
her so. It is one of the worst penalties that woman 
pays to age, that often, when advanced in life, the face 
loses its characteristic softness ; in short, but for the 
difference in dress, many an old woman's head might 
pass for that of an old man. This misfortune could ne- 
ver have happened to Mossy. No one could mistake 
the sex of that sweet countenance. 

Her dress manifested a good deal of laudable co- 
quetry, a nice and minute attention to the becoming. I 
do not know at what precise date her costume was 
fixed ; but, as long as I remember her, fixed it was, 
and stood as invariably at one point of fashion, as the 
hand of an unwound clock stands at one hour of tlie 
day. It consisted (to begin from the feet and describe 
upwards) of black shoes of shining stuff, with very 
pointed toes, high heels, and a peak up the instep, 
showing to advantage her delicately white cotton stock- 
ings, and peeping beneath petticoats so numerous and 
substantial, as to give a rotundity and projection almost 
equal to a hoop. Her exterior garment was always 
quilted, varying according to the season or the occasion 
from simple stuff, or fine white dimity, or an obsolete 



MRS. MOSSE. 223 

manufacture called Marseilles, up to silk and satin ; — 
for, as the wardrobes of my three grandmothers (pshaw ! 
I mean my grandfather's three wives !) had fallen to 
her lot, few gentlewomen of the last century could 
boast a greater variety of silks that stood on end. Over 
the quilted petticoat came an open gown, whose long 
waist reached to the bottom of her stiff stays, and whose 
very full tail, about six inches longer than the petti- 
coat, would have formed a very inconvenient little 
train, if it had been permitted to hang down ; but that 
inconvenience never happened, and could scarcely have 
been contemplated by the designer. The tail was con- 
stantly looped up, so as to hang behind in a sort of 
bunchy festoon, exhibiting on each side the aforesaid 
petticoat. In material the gown also varied with the 
occasion, although it was always either composed of 
dark cotton or of the rich silks and satins of my grand- 
mama's wardrobe. The sleeves came down just below 
the elbow, and were finished by a narrow white ruffle 
meeting her neat mittens. On her neck she wore a 
snow-white double muslin kerchief, pinned over the 
gown in front, and confined by an apron also of mus- 
lin ; and, over all, a handsome silk shawl, so pinned 
back as to show a part of the snowy neck-kerchief. Her 
head-dress was equally becoming, and more parti- 
cularly precise ; for, if ever she betrayed an atom of 
old-maidishness, it was on the score of her caps. From 

8 



2^4 . - MRS. MOSSE. 

a touch of the gout in her hands, which had enlarged 
and stiffened the joints, she could do no work which re- 
quired nicety, and the successive lady's maids, on whom 
the operation devolved, used to say that they would ra- 
ther make up ten caps for their riiistress than one for 
Mrs. Mosse ; and yet the construction seemed simple 
enough. A fine plain clear-starched caul, sticking up 
rather high and peaked in front, was plaited on a 
Scotch gauze headpiece ; (I remember there used to be 
exactly six plaits on each side — woe to the damsel who 
should put more or less !) and, on the other side, a 
border, consisting of a strip of fine muslin, edged with 
narrow lace, clear-starched and crimped, was plaited 
on with equal precision. In one part of this millinery 
I used to assist. I dearly loved to crimp Mossy's 
frills, and she with her usual indulgence used fre- 
quently to let me, keeping however a pretty close eye 
on her laces and muslins, whilst I was passing them 
with triumphant rapidity between the small wooden 
machine notched longitudinally, and the corresponding 
roller. Perhaps a greater proof of indulgence could 
hardly have been shown, since she must, during this 
operation, have been in double fear for her own cap 
strips, which did occasionally get a rent, and for my 
fingers, which were sometimes well pinched — then she 
would threaten that I should never crimp her muslin 
again — a never which seldom lasted beyond the next 



MRS. MOSSE. 



22B 



cap-making. The head-piece was then concealed by a 
satin riband fastened in a peculiar bow, something be- 
tween a bow and a puffing behind, whilst the front was 
adorned with an equally peculiar small knot, of which 
the two bows were pinned down flat and the two ends 
left sticking up, cut into scallops of a prodigious regu- 
larity. The purchase of the ribands formed another 
branch of the cap-making department to which I laid 
claim. From the earliest period at which I could dis- 
tinguish one colour from another, I had been purveyor 
of ribands^ to Mossy, and indeed at all fairs, or when- 
ever I received a present or entered a shop, (and I was 
so liberally supplied that there was nothing like gene- 
rosity in the case, ) it was the first and pleasantest des- 
tination of money that occurred to me ; — so that the 
dear woman used to complain, that Miss bought her so 
many ribands, that they spoiled in keeping. We did 
not quite agree either in our taste. White, as both ac- 
knowledged, was the only wear for Sundays and holi- 
days ; but then she loved plain white, and I could not 
always control a certain wandering inclination for 
figured patterns and pearl edges. If Mossy had an 
aversion to any thing, it was to a pearl edge. I never 
could persuade her to wear that simple piece of finery 
but once ; and then she made as many wry faces as a 
child eating olives, and stood before a glass eyeing the 
obnoxious riband with so much discomposure, that J 

Q 



226 MRS. MOSSE, 

was fain to take it out myself, and promise to buy no 
more pearl edges. The every-day ribands were co- 
loured ; and there, too, we had our little differences of 
taste and opinion. Both agreed in the propriety of 
grave colours ; but then my reading of a grave colour 
was not always the same with hers. My eyes were not 
old enough. She used to accuse my French greys of 
blueness, and my crimsons of redness, and my greens 
of their greenness. She had a penchant for brown, and to 
brown I had a repugnance only to be equalled by that 
which she professed towards a pearl edge ; — indeed I 
retain my dislike to this hour ; — it is such an exceed- 
ingly cross and frumpish-looking colour — and then its 
ugliness ! Show me a brown flower ! No ; I could not 
bring myself to buy brown ; — so after fighting many 
battles about grey and green, we at last settled on 
purple as a sort of neutral tint, a hue which pleased 
both parties. To return to the cap which we have been 
so long making — the finish both to that and to my de- 
scription was a strip of crimped muslin, with edging on 
both sides to match the border, quilled on a piece of 
tape, and fastened to the cap at each ear. This she 
called the chinnum, A straight short row of hair rather 
grey, but still very dark for her age, just appeared un- 
der the plaited lace; and a pair of silver-mounted 
spectacles completed her equipment. If I live to the 
age of seventy, I will dress so too, with an exception 



MRS. MOSSE, 2^7 

of tlie stiff stays. Only a waist native to tlie fashion 
could endure that whalebone armour. 

Her employments were many and various. No 
work was required of her from her mistress ; but 
idleness was misery to her habits of active usefulness, 
and it was astonishing how much those crippled fin- 
gers could do. She preferred coarse needle-work, as 
it was least difficult to her eyes and hands ; and she 
attended also to those numerous and undefined avoca- 
tions of a gentleman's family which come under the 
denomination of odd jobs — shelling peas, paring ap- 
ples, splitting French beans, washing china, darning 
stockings, hemming and mending dusters and house- 
cloths, making cabbage-nets, and knitting garters. 
These were her daily avocations, the amusements 
which she loved. The only more delicate operation 
of needle-work that she ever undertook was the mak- 
ing of pincushions, a manufacture in which she de- 
lighted — not the quips and quiddities of these degene- 
rate days, little bits of riband, and pasteboard, and 
gilt paper, in the shape of books or butterflies, by 
which, at charitable repositories, half-a-dozen pins are 
smuggled into a lady's pocket, and shillings and half- 
crowns are smuggled out ; — no ! Mossy's were real 
solid old-fashioned silken pincushions, such as Auto- 
lycus might have carried about amongst his pedlery- 
ware, square and roomy, and capable, at a moderate 

Q 2 



22S MRS. MOSSE. 

computation, of containing a whole paper of short- 
whites, and another of middlings. It was delightful to 
observe her enjoyment of this play-work ; the con- 
scious importance with which she produced her satins 
and brocades, and her cards of sewing silk (she generally 
made a whole batch at once) — the deliberation with 
which she assorted the colours;— the care with which 
she tacked and fitted side to side, and corner to 
corner ; — the earnestness witli which, when all was 
sewed up except one small aperture for the insertion 
of the stuffing, she would pour in the bran, or stow in 
the wool ;— then the care with which she poked the 
stuffing into every separate corner, ramming it down 
with all her strength, and making the little bag (so to 
say) hold more than it would hold, until it became 
almost as hard as a cricket-ball ; — then how she drew 
the aperture together by main force, putting so many 
last stitches, fastening off with such care; — and then 
distributing them to all arovmd her (for her lady-like 
spirit would have scorned the idea of selling them), 
and always reserving the gayest and the prettiest for 
me. Dear old soul ! I have several of them still. 

But, if I should begin to enumerate all the instances 
of kindness which I experienced at her hands, through 
the changes and varieties of troublesome childhood 
and fantastic youth ; from the time when I was a 
puling babyj to the still more exacting state of a young 



MRS. MOSSE. 



229 



girl at home in the holidays, I should never know 
when to end. Her sweet and loving temper was self- 
rewarded. She enjoyed the happiness she gave. Those 
were pleasant evenings when my father and mother 
were engaged in the Christmas-dinner visits of a gay 
and extensive neighbourhood, and Mrs. Mosse used to 
put on her handsomest shawl and her kindest smile, 
and totter up stairs to drink tea with me, and keep me 
company. From those evenings I imbibed, in the first 
place, a love of strong green tea, for which gentle- 
womanly excitation Mossy had a remarkable predi- 
lection ; secondly, a very discreditable and unlady- 
like partiality, of which I am quite ashamed, which I 
keep a secret from my most intimate friends, and 
would not mention for the world — a sort of sneaking 
kindness for her favourite game of cribbage ; an old- 
fashioned vulgarity, which, in my mind, beats the 
genteeler pastimes of whist and picquet, and every 
game, except quadrille, out and out. I make no ex- 
ception in favour of chess, because, thanks to my 
stupidity, I never could learn that recondite divert 
sion ; moreover, judging from the grave faces and 
fatiguing silence of the initiated, I cannot help sus- 
pecting that, board for board, we cribbage-players are 
as well amused as they. Dear Mossy could neither 
feel to deal and shuffle, nor see to peg ; so that the 
greater „part of -the business fell to my share. The 



2S0 MRS. MOSSE» 

success was pretty equally divided. Three rubbers 
were our stint ; and we were often game and game in 
the last before victory declared itself. She was very 
anxious to beat, certainly — (N. B. we never played 
for any thing) — she liked to win ; and yet she did not 
quite like that I should lose. If we could both have 
won — if it had been four-handed cribbage, and she my 
partner — still there would have been somebody to be 
beaten and pitied, but then that somebody would not 
have been '' Miss." 

The cribbage hour was pleasant ; but I think the 
hours of chat which preceded and followed it were 
pleasanter still. Mossy was a most agreeable com- 
panion, sensible, modest, simple, shrewd, with an ex- 
actness of recollection, an honesty of memory, that 
gave exceeding interest to her stories. You were 
sure that you heard the truth. There was one striking 
peculiarity in her manner of talking, or rather one 
striking contrast. The voice and accent were quite 
those of a gentlewoman, as sweet- toned and correct as 
€0uld be ; the words and their arrangement were alto- 
gether those of a common person, provincial and un- 
grammatical in every phrase and combination. I be- 
lieve it is an effect of association, from the little slips 
in her grammar, that I have contracted a ftiost un- 
scholar-like prejudice in favour of false syntax, which 
is so connected in my mind with right notions, that I 



MRS. MOSSE. 2S1 

no sooner catch the sound of bad Enghsh than I begin 
to listen for good sense ; and really they often go to- 
gether (always supposing that the bad English be not 
of the order called slang), they meet much more fre- 
quently than those exclusive people, ladies and gentle- 
men, are willing to allow. In her they were always 
united. But the charm of her conversation was in 
the old family stories, and the unconscious peeps at 
old manners w^hich they afforded. 

My grandfather, with whom she had lived in his 
first wife's time, full twenty years before my mother's 
birth, was a most respectable clergyman, who, after 
passing a few years in London amongst the wits and 
poets of the day, seeing the star of Pope in its decline, 
and that of Johnson in its rise, had retired into the 
country, where he held two adjoining livings of con- 
siderable value, both of which he served for above 
forty years, until the duty becoming too severe, he 
resigned one of them under an old-fashioned notion, 
that he who did the duty ought to receive the remu- 
neration. I am very proud of my venerable ancestor. 
We have a portrait of him taken shortly after he was 
ordained, in his gown and band, with a curious flowing 
wig, something like that of a judge, fashionable doubt- 
less, at the time, but which at present rather discom- 
poses one's notions of clerical costume. He seems to 
have been a dark little man, with a sensible counte- 



282 MRS. MOSSE. 

nance, and a pair of black eyes, that even in the picture 
look you through. He was a votary of the Muses, 
too ; a contributor to Lewis's Miscellany ; (did my 
readers ever hear of that collection ?) translated Ho- 
race, as all gentlemen do ; and wrote love- verses, 
which had the unusual good fortune of obtaining their 
object, being, as Mrs. Mosse was wont to affirm, the 
chief engine and implement by which at fifty he gained 
the heart of his third wife, my real grandmama, the 
beautiful daughter of a neighbouring 'squire. Of Dr. 
R., his wives, and his sermons, the bishops who visited, 
and the poets who wrote, to him, Mossy's talk was 
mainly composed ; chiefly of the wives. 

Mrs. R., the first, was a fine London lady, a widow, 
and considerably older than her spouse, inasmuch as 
my grand-papa's passion for her commenced when he 
and her son, by a former husband, were school-fellows 
at Westminster. Mrs. Mosse never talked much of 
her, and, I suspect, did not much like her, though, 
when closely questioned, she would say that madam 
was a fine, portly lady, stately and personable, but 
rather too high. Her son made a sad mssalliance. 
He ran away with the sexton's daughter, an adventure 
which cost the sexton his post, and his mother her 
pride : she never looked up after it. That disgrace, 
and a cold caught by buinping on a pillion six miles 
through the rain, sent her to her grave. 



MRS. MOSSfi. 2SS 

Of the second Mrs. R. little remains on record, 
except a gown and petticoat of primrose silk, curiously 
embossed and embroidered with gold and silver thread 
and silks of all colours, in an enormous running pat- 
tern of staring flowers, wonderfully unlike nature ; 
also various recipes in the family receipt-book, which 
show a delicate Italian hand, and a bold originality of 
orthography. The chief event of her married life 
appears to have been the small-pox. She and two of 
her sisters, and Mrs. Mosse, were all inoculated to- 
gether. The other servants, who had not gone 
through the disorder, were sent out of the house : Dr. 
R. himself took refuge with a neighbouring friend, and 
the patients were consigned to the care of two or thre© 
nurses, gossips by profession, hired from the next 
town. The best parlour (in those days drawing-rooms 
were not) was turned into a hospital ; a quarantine, 
almost as strict as would be required in the plague, 
was kept up, and the preparation, the disease, and the 
recovery, consumed nearly two months.. Mrs. Mosse 
always spoke of it as one of the pleasantest passages of 
her life. None of them suffered much ; there was 
nothing to do ; plenty of gossiping ; a sense of self- 
importance, such as all prisoners must feel more or 
less ; and for amusement they had Pamela, the Spec- 
tator, and Sir Charles Grandison. My grandfather 
had a very fine library ; but Sir Charles was a female 



234 MRS, MOSSE. 

book, having been purchased by the joint contributions 
of six young ladies, and circulated amongst them once 
a year, sojourning two months with each fair partner, 
till death or marriage broke up the coterie. Is not 
that fame?— Well, the second Mrs. R. died in th6 
course of time, though not of the small -pox ; and my 
grandfather, faithful to his wives, but not to their 
memories, married again as usual. 

His third adventure in that line was particularly 
happy ; for my grandmother, beside being a cele- 
brated beauty, appears to have been one of the best 
and kindest women that ever gladdened a country- 
home. She had a large household ; for the tithes of 
one rich rectory were taken in kind, and the glebe 
cultivated ; so that the cares of a farm-house were 
added to the hospitality of a man of good fortune, 
and to the sort of stateliness which in those primitive 
days appertained to a doctor of divinity. The super- 
intendence of that large household seems to have been 
at once her duty and her delight. It was a plenty and 
festivity almost resembling tliat of Camacho's wed- 
ding, guided by a wise and liberal oeconomy, and a 
spirit of indefatigable industry. Oh the saltings, the 
picklings, the preservings, the cake-makings, the un- 
named and unnameable confectionary doings over 
which she presided ! The very titles of her terri- 
tories denoted the extent of her stores. The 



MRS. MOSSE. 2S5 

apple-room, the pear-bin, the cheese-loft, the minced- 
meat closet, were household words as familiar in 
Mossy's mouth as the dairy or the poultry-yard. And 
my grandmama was no hoarder for hoarding's sake, 
no maker of good things whicli were not to be eaten — 
as I have sometimes noted amongst your managing 
ladies ; the object of her cares and stores v/as to con- 
tribute to the comfort of all who came within her in- 
fluence. The large parsonage-house was generally 
overflowing with guests ; and from the Oxford pro- 
fessor, who, with his wife, children, servants, and 
horses, passed his vacations there, to the poor pew- 
opener, who came with her little ones at tide-times, 
all felt the charm of her smiling graciousness, her 
sweet and cheerful spirit, her open hand and open 
heart. It is difficult to imagine a happier couple than 
my venerable grandfather and his charming wife. He 
retained to the last his studious habits, his love of 
literature, and his strong and warm family affections ; 
while she cast the sunshine of her innocent gaiety over 
his respectable age, proud of his scholarship, and 
prouder still of his virtues. Both died long ago. 
But Mossy was an " honest chronicler," and never 
weary of her theme. Even the daily airings of the 
good doctor (who, in spite of his three wives, had a 
little of the peculiar preciseness in his studies and his 



2S6 MRS. MOSSE, 

exercise, which one is apt to attribute exclusively to 
that dreary person, an old bachelor), even those air- 
ings from twelve to two, four miles on the turnpike- 
road and four miles back, with the fat horses and the 
grey-haired coachman, became vivid and characteristic 
in her description. The very carriage-dog, Sancho, 
was individualized ; we felt that he belonged to the 
people and the time. 

Of these things we talked, mingled w'ith many mis- 
cellaneous anecdotes of the same date ; — how an elec- 
tioneering duke saluted madam, and lost master's in- 
terest by the freedom ; how Sir Thomas S., the Love- 
lace of his day, came in his chariot and six, full twenty 
miles out of his way, to show himself to Miss Fanny 
in a Spanish masquerade-dress, white satin slashed v/ith 
blue, a blue cloke embroidered with silver, and point- 
lace that might have won any woman's heart, except 
that of his fair but obdurate mistress ; and lastly, how 
Henry Fielding, when on a visit in the neighbourhood, 
had been accustomed to come and swing the children 
in the great barn ; he had even swung Mossy herself, 
to her no small edification and delight— only think of 
being chucked backwards and forwards by the man 
who wrote about Parson Adams and 'Squire All- 
worthy ! I used to envy her that felicity. Then from 
authors we got to books. She could not see in my 
time to read any thing but the folio Bibl^, and Com." 



MRS. MOSSE, ^37 

mon Prayer-Book, with which my dear mother had 
furnished her ; but in her younger days she had seen 
or heard parts at least of a variety of books, and en- 
tered into them with a very keen though uncritical 
rehsh. Her chief favourites were, the Pilgrim's Pro- 
gress, Don Quixote, Gulliver's Travels, Robinson 
Crusoe, and the equally apocryphal but still truer- 
seeming History of the Plague in London, by the 
same author, all of which she believed with the most 
earnest simplicity. I used frequently to read to her 
the passages she liked best ; and she in her turn 
would repeat to me songs and ballads, good, bad, and 
indifferent — a strange medley, and strangely con- 
founded in her memory ; and so the time passed till 
ten o'clock. Those were pleasant evenings for her and 
for me. 

I have sometimes, on recollection, feared that her 
down-stair life was less happy. All that the orders of 
a mistress could effect for her comfort was done. But 
we were rich then unluckily; and there were skip- 
jacks of footmen, and surly coachmen, and affected 
waiting-maids, and vixenish cooks, with tempers red- 
hot like their coals, to vex and tease our dear old 
woman. She must have suffered greatly between her 
ardent zeal for her master's interest, and that strange 
principle of concealing evil doings which servants call 
honour, and of which she was perpetually the slave 



23S MRS. MOSSE« 

and flie victim. She had another infirmity, too, an 
impossibihty of saying no, which, added to an un» 
bounded generosity of temper, rendered her the easy 
dupe of the artful and designing. She would give any 
thing to the appearance of want, or the pretence of 
affection ; in short, to importunity, however clothed. 
It was the only point of weakness in her character ; 
and to watch that she did not throw away her own 
little comforts, to protect her from the effects of her 
over-liberality, was the chief care of her mistress. 
Three inferior servants were successively turned away 
for trespassing on Mossy's goodness, drinking her 
green tea, eating her diet-bread, begging her gowns. 
But the evil was incurable ; she could dispense with 
any pleasure, except that of giving. So she lived on, 
beloved as the kind, the gentle, and the generous must 
be, till I left school— an event that gave her great 
satisfaction. 

We passed the succeeding spring in London ; and 
she took the opportunity to pay a long-promised visit 
to a half-nephew and niece, or rather a half-niece and 
her husband, who lived in Prince's-street, Barbican. 
Mrs. Beck (one naturally mentions her first as the 
person of most consequence) was the only real woman 
who ever came up to the magnificent abstract idea of 
the " fat woman of Brentford," the only being for 
whom Sir John FalstafF might have passed undeleted. 



MRS. MOSSE. ^S9 

She was indeed a mountain of flesh, exuberant, rubi- 
cund, and bearded like a man ; and she spoke, in a 
loud deep mannish voice, a broad Wiltshire dialect ; 
but she was hearty and jovial withal, a thorough good- 
fellow in petticoats. Mr. Beck, on the other hand, 
was a little, insignificant, perking, sharp-featured man, 
with a Jerry-Sneak expression in his pale whey-face, 
a thin squeaking voice, and a Cockney accent. He 
had been lucky enough to keep a little shop in an in- 
dependant borough, at the time of a violent contested 
election ; and having adroitly kept back his vote till 
votes rose to their full value (I hope this is no breach 
of privilege), and then voted on the stronger side, he 
was at the time of which I speak comfortably settled 
in the excise as a tide-waiter, had a pretty neat house, 
brought up his family in good repute, wore a flaming 
red waistcoat, attended a dissenting meeting, and owed 
no man a shilling. 

These good people were very fond of their aunt, 
who had indeed, before they were so well off, shown 
them innumerable kindnesses. Perhaps there might 
be in the case a little gratitude for favours to come ; 
for she had three or four hundred pounds to bequeath, 
partly her own savings, and partly a legacy from a 
distant relative ; and they were her natural heirs. 
However that might be, they paid her all possible 
attention, and when we were about to return into the 



£40 . MRS. MOSSE. 

country, petitioned sp vehemently for a few weeks 
more, that, yielding to the above-mentioned infirmity, 
she consented to stay. I had myself been the ambas- 
sadress to Barbican to fetch our dear old friend ; and I 
remember, as if it were yesterday, how earnestly I en- 
treated her to come with me, and how seriously I lec- 
tured Mrs. Beck for her selfishness, in wishing to keep 
her aunt in London during the heat of June. I even, 
after taking leave,, sprang out of the carriage, and ran 
again up stairs to persuade her to come with me. 
Mossy's wishes were evidently on my side ; but she 
had promised, and the performance of her promise was 
peremptorily claimed : so with a heavy heart I left her. 
I never saw her again. There is surely such a thing 
as presentiment. A violent attack of gout in the 
stomach carried her off in a few hours. Hail to thy 
memory! for thou wast of the antique world, when 
" service sweat for duty, not for meed !" 



WALKS IN THE COUNTRY, 



NUTTING, 

September 26th.— One of those delicious autumiial 
days, when the air, the sky, and the earth, seem lulled 
into an universal calm, softer and milder even than 
May. We sallied forth for a walk, in a mood con- 
genial to the weather and the season, avoiding, by 
mutual consent, the bright and sunny common, and 
the gay high road, and stealing through shady unfre- 
quented lanes, where we were not likely to meet any 
one,— not even the pretty family procession which in 
other years we used to contemplate with so much in- 
terest — the father, mother, and children, returning 
from the wheat-field, the little ones laden with brist« 
ling close-tied bunches of wheat-ears, their own glean« 
ings, or a bottle and a basket which had contained 
their frugal dinner, whilst the mother would carry her 
babe hushing and lulling it, and the father and an 
elder child trudged after with the cradle^ all seeming 

B 



24^2 WALKS JN th:£ country. 

weary, and all happy. We shall not see such a pro- 
cession as this to-day ; for the harvest is nearly over, 
the fields are deserted, the silence may almost be felt. 
Except the wintry notes of the red-breast, nature her- 
self is mute. But how beautiful, how gentle, how har- 
monious, how rich ! The rain has preserved to the 
herbage all the freshness and verdure of spring, and 
the world of leaves has lost nothing of its midsummer 
brightness, and the hare-bell is on the banks and the 
woodbine in the hedges, and the low furze, which the 
lambs cropped in the spring, has burst again into its 
golden blossoms. 

All is beautiful that the eye can see ; perhaps the 
more beautiful for being shut in with a forest-like 
closeness. We have no prospect in this labyrinth of 
lanes, cross-roads, mere cart-ways, leading to the innu- 
merable little farms into which this part of the parish 
is divided. Uphill or down, these quiet woody lanes 
scarcely give us a peep at the world, except when, 
leaning over a gate, we look into one of the small 
enclosures, hemmed in with hedgerows, so closely set 
with growing timber, that the meadowy opening looks 
almost like a glade in a wood, or, when some cottage, 
planted at a corner of one of the little greens formed 
by the meeting of these cross-ways, almost startles us 
by the unexpected sight of the dwellings of men in 
such a solitude. But that we have more of hill and 



NUTTING. 2iS 

dale, and tjiat our cross-roads are excellent in their 
kind, this side of our parish would resemble the de- 
scription given of La Vendee, in Madame Laroche- 
jacquelin's most interesting book*. I am sure if wood 
can entitle a country to be called Le Bocage, none can 
have a better right to the name. Even this pretty 
snug farm-house on the hill side, with its front 
covered with the rich vine, which goes wreathing up 
to the very top of the clustered chimney, and its 
sloping orchard full of fruit — even this pretty quiet 
nest can hardly peep out of its leaves. Ah ! they are 
gathering in the orchard-harvest. Look at that young 
rogue in the old mossy apple-tree — that great tree, 
bending with the weight of its golden-rennets — see 
how he pelts his little sister beneath with apples as red 
and as round as her own cheeks, while she, with her 
outstretched frock, is trying to catch them, and laugh- 
ing and offering to pelt again as often as one bobs 
against her ; and look at that still younger imp, who, 
as grave as a judge^ is creeping on hands and knees 
under the tree, picking up the apples as they fall so 

* An almost equally interesting account of that very peculiar and 
interesting scenery, may be found in " The Maid of La Vendue," 
an English novel, remarkable for its simplicity and truth of paint- 
ing, written by Mrs. Le Noir, the daughter of Christopher Smart, 
and inheritrix of much of bis talent. Her works deserve to be 
better known. 

ft2 



^44 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

deedily *, and depositing them so honestly in the gi-eat 
basket on the grass, already fixed so firmly and opened 
so widely, and filled almost to overflowing by the 
brown rough fruitage of the golden rennet's next 
neighbour the russeting ; and see that smallest urchin 
of all, seated apart in infantine state on the turfy bank, 
with that toothsome piece of deformity a crumpling in 
each hand, now biting from one sweet hard juicy mor- 
sel, and now from another. — Is not that a pretty 
English picture ? And then, farther up the orchard, 
that bold hardy lad, the eldest-born, who has scaled 
(Heaven knows how !) the tall straight upper branch 
of that great pear-tree, and is sitting there as securely 
and as fearlessly, in as much real safety and apparent 
danger, as a sailor on the top-mast. Now he shakes 
the tree with a mighty swing that brings down a 
pelting shower of stony bergamots, which the father 
gathers rapidly up, whilst the mother can hardly assist 
for her motherly fear,— -a fear which only spurs the 
spirited boy to bolder ventures. Is not that a pretty 
picture ? And they are such a handsome family, too, 

* " Deedily," — I ara not quite sure that this word is good 
English ; but it is genuine Hampshire, and is used by the most 
correct of female writers, Miss Austen. It means (and it is no 
small merit that it has no exact synonyme) any thing done with a 
profound and plodding attention, an action which engrosses all the 
powers of mind and body. 



NUTTING. 345 

tlie Brookers. I do not know that there is any gipsey 
blood, but there is the true gipsey complexion, richly 
brown, with cheeks and lips so deeply red, black hair 
curling close to their heads in short crisp rings, white 
shining teeth — and such eyes! — That sort of beauty 
entirely eclipses your mere roses and lilies. Even 
Lizzy, the prettiest of fair children, would look poor 
and watery by the side of Willy Brooker, the sober 
little personage who is picking up the apples with his 
small chubby hands, and filling the basket so orderly, 
next to his father the most useful man in tbe field. 
" Willy !" He hears without seeing ; for we are quite 
hidden by the high bank, and a spreading hawthorn- 
bush that overtops it, though between the lower 
branches and the grass we have found a convenient 
peep-hole. " Willy !" The voice sounds to him like 
some fairy dream, and the black eyes are raised 
from the ground with sudden wonder, the long silky 
eye-lashes thrown back till they rest on the delicate 
brow, and a deeper blush is burning in those dark 
cheeks, and a smile is dimpling about those scarlet 
lips. But the voice is silent now, and the little quiet 
boy, after a moment's pause, is gone coolly to work 
again. He is indeed a most lovely child. I think 
some day or other he must marry Lizzy ; I shall pro- 
pose the match to their respective mamas. At present 
the parties are rather too young for a wedding— the 



246 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

intended bridegroom being, as I should judge, six, or 
thereabout, and the fair bride barely five,— but at least 
Ive might have a betrothment after the royal fashion,— 
there could be no harm in that. Miss Lizzy, I have no 
doubt, would be as demure and coquettish as if ten 
winters more had gone over her head, and poor Willy 
would open his innocent black eyes, and wonder what 
was going forward. They would be the very Oberon 
and Titania of the village, the fairy king and queen. 

Ah ! here is the hedge along which the periwinkle 
wreathes and twines so profusely, with its ever-green 
leaves shining like the myrtle, and its starry blue 
flowers. It is seldom found wild in this part of Eng- 
land ; but, when we do meet with it, it is so abundant 
and so welcome, — the very robin-redbreast of flowers, 
a winter friend. Unless in those unfrequent frosts 
which destroy all vegetation, it blossoms from Septem- 
ber to June, surviving the last lingering crane's bill, 
forerunning the earliest primrose, hardier even than the 
mountain daisy, — peeping out from beneath the snow, 
looking at itself in the ice, smiling through the tem- 
pests of life, and yet welcoming and enjoying the sun- 
beams. Oh, to be like that flower ! 

The little spring that has been bubbling under the 
hedge all along the hill-side begins, now that we have 
mounted the eminence and ai^ imperceptibly descend- 
ing, to deviate into a capricious variety of clear deep 



J^UTTING. 247 

pools and channels, so narrow and so choked with 
weeds, that a child might overstep them. The hedge 
has also changed its character. It is no longer the close 
compact] vegetable wall of hawthorn, and maple, and 
briar roses, intertwined with bramble and woodbine, 
and crowned with large elms or thickly set saplings. 
No! the pretty meadow which rises high above us, 
backed and almost surrounded by a tall coppice, needs 
no defence on our side but its own steep bank, gar- 
nished with tufts of broom, with pollard oaks wreathed 
with ivy, and here and there with long patches of hazel 
overhanging the water. " Ah there are still nuts on 
that bough !" and in an instant my dear companion, ac- 
tive and eager and delighted as a boy, has hooked down 
with his walking-stick one of the lissome hazel stalks, 
and cleared it of its tawny clusters, and in another mo- 
ment he has mounted the bank, and is in the midst of 
the nuttery, now transferring the spoil from the lower 
branches into that vast variety of pockets which gentle- 
men carry about them, now bending the tail tops into 
the lane, holding them down by main force, so that I 
might reach them and enjoy the pleasure of collecting 
some of the plunder myself. A very great pleasure he 
knew it would be. I doffed my shawl, tucked up my 
flounces, turned my straw bonnet into a basket, and 
began gathering and scrambling— for, manage it how 
you may, nutting is scrambling work,— those boughs, 
8 



^48 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

however tightly you may grasp them by the young 
fragrant twigs and the bright green leaves, will recoil 
apd burst away ; but there is a pleasure even in that ; 
so on we go^ scrambling and gathering with all our 
might and all our glee. Oh what an enjoyment ! All 
my life long I have had a passion for that sort of seek- 
ing which implies finding, (the secret, I believe, of the 
love of field-sports, which is in man's mind a natural 
impulse,) — therefore I love violeting, — therefore, when 
we had a fine garden I used to love to gather straw- 
berries, and cut asparagus, and, above all, to collect 
the filberts from the shrubberies : but this hedge-row 
nutting beats that sport all to nothing. That was a 
make-believe thing, compared with this ; there was no 
surprise, no suspense, no unexpectedness — it was as 
inferior to this wild nutting, as the turning out of a hag- 
fox is to unearthing the fellow in the eyes of a staunch 
fox-hunter. 

Oh what an enjoyment this nut-gathering is ! They 
are in such abundance, that it seems as if there were 
not a boy in the parish, nor a young man, nor a young 
woman, — for a basket of nuts is the universal tribute of 
country gallantry ; our pretty damsel Harriet has had 
at least half a dozen this season ; but no one has found 
out these. And they are so full too, we lose half of 
them from over-ripeness ; they drop from the socket at 
the slightest inotion. If we lose, there is one who 



NUTTJNG. 249 

finds. May is as fond of nuts as a squirrel, and cracks 
the shell and extracts the kernel with equal dexterity. 
Her white glossy head is upturned now to watch them 
as they fall. See how her neck is thrown back like that 
of a swan, and how beautifully her folded ears quiver 
with expectation, and how her quick eye follows the 
rustling noise, and her light feet dance and pat the 
ground, and leap up with eagerness, seeming almost 
sustained in the air, just as I have seen her when Brush 
is beating a hedgerow, and she knows from his questing 
that there is a hare afoot. See, she has caught that 
nut just before it touched the water ; but the water 
would have been no defence, — she fishes them from the 
bottom, she delves after them amongst the matted 
grass — even my bonnet — how beggingly she looks at 
that ! " Oh what a pleasure nutting is I — Is it not, 
May? But the pockets are almost full, and so is the 
basket-bonnet, and that bright watch the sun says it is 
late ; — and after all it is wrong to rob the poor boys — 
* pleasant but wrong' — is it not. May ?"— May shakes 
her graceful head denyingly, as if she understood the 
question — " And we must go home now — ^must we 
not ? But we will come nutting again some time or 
other— shall we not, my May V 



AUNT MARTHA, 



One of the pleasantest habitations I have ever known is 
an old white house, built at right angles, with the 
pointed roofs and clustered chimneys of Elizabeth's 
day, covered with roses, vines, and passion-flowers, 
and parted by a green sloping meadow from a strag- 
gling picturesque village street. In this charming abode 
resides a more charming family : a gentleman, 

*' Polite as all his life in courts had been. 
And good as he the world had never seen j" 

two daughters full of sweetness and talent ; and aunt 
Martha — the most delightful of old maids ! She has 
another appellation, I suppose, — she must have one ; — 
but I scarcely know it : Aunt Martha is the name that 
belongs to her — the nam.e of affection. Such is the 
universal feeling which she inspires, that all her friends, 
all her acquaintances, (in this case the terms are almost 
synonymous,) speak of her like her own family:— -she 



AUNT MARTHA. 251 

is every body's Aunt Martha — and a very charming' 
Aunt Martha she is. 

First of all, she is, as all women should be if they 
can, remarkably handsome. She may be — it is a de- 
licate matter to speak of a lady's age! — she must be 
five-and-forty ; but few beauties of twenty could stand 
a comparison with her loveliness. It is such a fulness 
of bloom, so luxuriant, so satiating ; just tall enough 
to carry off the plumpness which at forty-five is so be- 
coming ; a brilliant complexion ; curled pouting lips ; 
long, clear, bright grey eyes — the colour for expres- 
sion, that which unites the quickness of the black with 
the softness of the blue ; a Roman regularity of fea- 
ture; and a profusion of rich brown hair. — Such is 
Aunt Martha. Add to this a very gentle and pleasant 
speech, always kind, and generally lively ; the sweetest 
temper ; the easiest manners ; a singular rectitude and 
singleness of mind ; a perfect open-heartedness ; and 
a total unconsciousness of all these charms ; and you 
will wonder a little that she is Aunt Martha still. I 
have heard hints of an early engagement broken by the 
fickleness of man ; — and there is about her an aversion 
to love in one particular direction — the love matrimo- 
nial — and an overflowing of affection in all other chan- 
nels, that seems as if the natural course of the stream 
had been violently dammed up. She has many lovers 
■—admirers I should say,— for there is, amidst her 



252 AUNT MARTHA. 

good-humoured gaiety, a coyness that forbids their 
going farther ; a modesty almost amounting to shy- 
ness, that checks even the laughing girls, who some- 
times accuse her of stealing away their beaux. I do 
not think any man on earth could tempt her into wed- 
lock ; — it would be a most unpardonable monopoly if 
any one should ; an intolerable engrossing of a general 
blessing ; a theft from the whole community. 

Her usual home is the white house covered with 
roses ; and her station in the family is rather doubtful. 
She is not the mistress, for her charming nieces are old 
enough to take and to adorn the head of the table ; nor 
the housekeeper, though, as she is the only lady of the 
establishment who wears pockets, those ensigns of au- 
thority the keys will sometimes be found, with other 
strays, in that goodly receptacle ; nor a guest ; her 
spirit is too active for that lazy post ; her real vocation 
there, and every where, seems to be comforting, cheer- 
ing, welcoming, and spoiling every thing that comes in 
her way ; and, above all, nursing and taking care. Of 
all kind employments, these are her favourites. Oh 
the shawlings, the cloakings, the cloggings ! the cau- 
tions against cold, or heat, or rain, or sun ! the reme- 
dies for diseases not arrived ! colds uncaught ! incipient 
tooth'aches ! rheumatisms to come ! She loves nursing 
so well, that we used to accuse her of inventing mala- 
dies for other people, that she might have the pleasure 



AUNT MARTHA* 253 

of curing them ; and when they really come — as come 
they will sometimes in spite of Aunt Martha — what a 
nurse she is ! It is worth while to be a little sick to be 
so attended. All the cousins, and cousins' cousins of 
her connexion, as regularly send for her on the occa- 
sion of a lying-in, as for the midwife. I suppose she 
has undergone the ceremony of dandling the baby, 
sitting up with the new mama, and dispensing the cau- 
dle, twenty times at least. She is equally important at 
weddings or funerals. Her humanity is inexhaustible. 
She has an intense feeling of fellowship with her kind, 
and grieves or rejoices in the sufferings or happiness of 
others with a reality as genuine as it is rare. 

Her accomplishments are exactly of this sympathetic 
order ; all calculated to administer much to the pleasure 
of her companions, and nothing to her own importance 
or vanity. She leaves to the sirens, her nieces, the 
higher enchantments of the piano, the harp, and the 
guitar, and that noblest of instruments, the human 
voice ; ambitious of no other musical fame than such as 
belongs to the playing of quadrilles and waltzes for their 
little dances, in which she is indefatigable : she neither 
caricatures the face of man nor of nature under pretence 
of drawing figures or landscapes ; but she ornaments 
the reticules, bell-ropes, ottomans, and chair- covers of 
all her acquaintance, with flowers as rich and luxuriant 
as her own beauty. She draws patterns for the igno- 



^54 AUNT MARTHA. 

rant, and works flounces, frills, and baby-linen, for 
the idle; she reads aloud to the sick, plays at cards 
with the old, and loses at chess to the unhappy. Her 
gift in gossiping, too, is extraordinary ; she is a gentle 
newsmonger, and turns her scandal on the sunny side. 
But she is an old maid still ; and certain small pecu- 
liarities hang about her. She is a thorough hoarder : 
whatever fashion comes up, she is sure to have some- 
thing of the sort by her — or, at least, something there- 
Tinto convertible. She is a little superstitious ; sees 
strangers in her tea-cup, gifts in her finger-nails, let- 
ters and winding-sheets in the candle, and purses and 
coffins in the fire ; would not spill the salt " for all the 
worlds that one ever has to give ;" and looks with dis- 
may on a crossed knife and fork. Moreover, she is 
orderly to fidgetiness ; — that is her greatest calamity ! 
—for young ladies now-a-days are not quite so tidy as 
they should be, — and ladies* maids are much worse ; 
and drawers are tumbled, and drawing-rooms in a lit- 
ter. Happy she to whom a disarranged drawer can be 
a misery ! Dear and happy Aunt Martha ! 



WALKS IN THE COUNTRY, 



THE VISIT. 

October 27th. — A lovely autumnal day ; the air soft, 
balmy, genial ; the sky of that softened and delicate 
blue upon which the eye loves to rest, — the blue which 
gives such relief to the rich beauty of the earth, all 
around glowing in the ripe and mellow tints of the most 
gorgeous of the seasons. Really such an autumn may 
well compensate our English climate for the fine spring 
of the south, that spring of which the poets talk, but 
which we so seldom enjoy. Such an autumn glows 
upon us like a splendid evening ; it is the very sunset 
of the year; and I have been tempted forth into a 
wider range of enjoyment than usual. This walk (if I 
may use the Irish figure of speech called a bull) will be 
a ride, A very dear friend has beguiled me into ac- 
companying her in her pretty equipage to her beautiful 
home, four miles off; and having sent forward in the 



256 WALKS IN THE COUXTRY. 

Style of a running footman the servant who had driven 
her, she assumes the reins, and off we set. 

My fair companion is a person whom nature and for- 
tune would have spoiled if they could. She is one of 
those striking women whom a stranger cannot pass 
without turning to look again ; tall and finely propor- 
tioned, with a bold Roman contour of figure and fea- 
ture, a delicate English complexion, and an air of dis- 
tinction altogether her own. Her beauty is duchess- 
like. She seems born to wear feathers and diamonds, 
and to form the grace and ornament of a court ; and the 
noble frankness and simplicity of her countenance and 
manner confirm the impression. Destiny has, however, 
dealt more kindly by her. She is the wife of a rich 
country gentleman of high descent and higher attain- 
ments, to whom she is most devotedly attached, — the 
mother of a little girl as lovely as herself, and the de- 
light of all who have the happiness of her acquaintance, 
to whom she is endeared not merely by her remarkable 
sweetness of temper and kindness of heart, but by the 
singular ingenuousness and openness of character which 
communicate an indescribable charm to her conversa- 
tion. She is as transparent as water. You may see 
every colour, every shade of a mind as lofty and beau- 
tiful as her person. Talking with her is like being in 
the Palace of Truth described by Madame de Genlis ; 



THE VISIT. 257 

and yet so kindly are her feelings, so great her in- 
dulgence to the little failings and foibles of our comi 
mon nature, so intense her sympathy with the wants, 
the wishes, the sorrows, and the happiness of h^r fel- 
low-creatures, that, with all her frank speaking, I ne- 
ver knew her make an enemy or lose a friend. 

But we must get on. What would she say if she 
knew I was putting her into print ? We must get on 
up the hill. Ah ! that is precisely what we are not 
likely to do ! This horse, this beautiful and high-bred 
horse, well fed, and fat and glossy, who stood prancing 
at our gate like an Arabian, has suddenly turned sulky. 
He does not indeed stand c[uite still, but his way of 
moving is little better, — the slowest and most sullen of 
all walks. Even they who ply the hearse at funerals, 
sad-looking beasts who totter under black feathers, go 
faster. It is of no use to admonish him by whip, or 
rein, or word. The rogue has found out, that it is a 
weak and tender hand that guides him now. Oh for 
one pull, one stroke of his old driver the groom ! How 
he would fly ! But there is the groom half a mile be- 
fore us, out of ear-shot, clearing the ground at a capital 
rate, beating us hollow. He has just turned the top 
of the hill ; — and in a moment — aye, nmv he is out of 
sight, and will undoubtedly so continue till he meets us 
at the lawn gate. Well ! there is no great harm. It 
is only prolonging the pleasure of enjoying together this 



25S WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

charming scenery in this fine weather. If once we make 
up our minds not to care how slowly our steed goes, not 
to fret ourselves by vain exertions, it is no matter what 
his pace may be. There is little doubt of his getting 
home by sunset, and that will content us. He is, after 
all, a fine noble animal ; and perhaps when he finds 
that we are determined to give him his way, he may re- 
lent, and give us ours. All of his sex are sticklers for 
dominion, though, when it is undisputed, some of them 
are generous enough to abandon it. Two or three of 
the most discreet wives of my acquaintance contrive to 
manage their husbands sufficiently with no better secret 
than this seeming submission ; and in our case the ex- 
ample has the more weight since we have no possible 
way of helping ourselves. 

Thus philosophising, we reached the top of the hill, 
and vievv^ed with " reverted eyes" the beautiful prospect 
that lay bathed in golden sunshine behind us. Cowper 
says, with that boldness of expressing in poetry the 
commonest and simplest feelings, which is perhaps one 
great secret of his originality, 

•' Scenes must be beautiful, which, daily seen. 
Please daily, and whose novelty survives 
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years/' 

Every day I walk up this hill — every day I pause at the 
top to admire the broad winding road with the greeo 



THE VISIT. ^59 

waste on each side, uniting it with the thickly timbered 
hedgerows ; the two pretty cottages at unequal dis- 
tances, placed so as to mark the bends; the village 
beyond, with its mass of roofs and clustered chimneys 
peeping through the trees ; and the rich distance, where 
cottages, mansions, churches, towns, seem embowered 
in some wide forest, and shut in by blue shadowy hills. 
Every day I admire this most beautiful landscape ; yet 
never did it seem to me so fine or so glowing as now. 
All the tints of the glorious autumn, orange, tawny, 
yellow, red, are poured in profusion amongst the bright 
greens of the meadows and turnip fields, till the eye is 
satiated with colour ; and then before us v/e have the 
common with its picturesque roughness of surface, 
tufted with cottages, dappled with water, edging off on 
one side into fields and farms and orchards, and termi-* 
nated on the other by the princely oak avenue. What 
a richness and variety the wild broken ground gives to 
the luxuriant cultivation of the rest of the landscape ! 
Cowper has described it for me. How perpetually, ad 
we walk in the country, his vivid pictures recur to the 
memory ! Here is his common, and mine ! 

" The common overgrown with fern, and rough 
With prickly gorse, that, shapeless and deform'd 
And dangeious to the touch, has jet its bloom, 
And decks itself with ornaments of gold ;— 

s 2 



^60 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 



there the turf 



Smells fresh, and, rich in odoriferous herbs 
And fungous fruits of earth, regales the sense 
With luxury of unexpected sweets." 

The description is exact. There, too, to the left is my 
cricket-ground ; (Cowper's common wanted that finish- 
ing grace ;) and there stands one solitary urchin, as if 
in contemplation of its past and future glories ; for, 
alas! cricket is over for the season. Ah! it is Ben 
Kirby, next brother to Joe, king of the youngsters, 
and probably his successor — for this Michaelmas has 
cost us Joe! He is promoted from the farm to the 
mansion-house, two miles off; there he cleans shoes, 
rubs knives, and runs upon errands, and is, as his mo- 
ther expresses it, " a sort of 'prentice to the footman." 
I should not wonder if Joe, some day or other, should 
overtop the footman, and rise to be butler ; and his 
splendid prospects must be our consolation for the loss 
of this great favourite. In the mean time we have 
Ben. 

Ben Kirby is a year younger than Joe, and the 
schoolfellow and rival of Jem Eusden. To be sure his 
abilities lie in rather a different line : Jem is a scholar, 
Ben is a wag : Jem is great in figures and writing, Ben 
in faces and mischief. His master says of him, that, 
if there were two such in the school, he must resign his 



THE VISIT. 261 

office ; and, as far as my observation goes, the worthy 
pedagogue is right. Ben is, it must be confessed, a 
great corrupter of gravity. He hath an exceeding aver* 
sion to authority and decorum, and a wonderful bold-^ 
ness and dexterity in overthrowing the one and puzzling 
the other. His contortions of visage are astounding. 
His " power over his own muscles and those of other 
people " is almost equal to that of Liston ; and indeed 
the original face, flat and square and Chinese in its 
shape, of a fine tan complexion, with a snub nose, and 
a slit for a mouth, is nearly as comical as that matchless 
performer's. When aided by Ben's singular mobility of 
feature, his knowing winks and grins and shrugs and 
nods, together with a certain dry shrewdness, a habit 
of saying sharp things, and a marvellous gift of impu- 
dence, it forms as fine a specimen as possible of a hu- 
morous country boy, an oddity in embryo. Every 
body likes Ben, except his butts ; (which may perhaps 
comprise half his acquaintance ;) and of them no one so 
thoroughly hates and dreads him as our parish school- 
master, a most worthy King Log, whom Ben dumb- 
founds twenty times a day. He is a great ornament of 
the cricket-ground, has a real genius for the game, and 
displays it after a very original manner under the dis- 
guise of awkwardness — as the clown shows off his 
agility in a pantomime. Nothing comes amiss to him. 
By the bye, he would have been the very lad for us in 



26^ WALKS IN THE COUNTRY, 

our present dilemma; not a horse in England could 
master Ben Kirby. But we are too far from him now 
-—and perhaps it is as well that we are so. I believe 
the rogue has a kindness for me, in remembrance of 
certain apples and nuts, which my usual companion, 
who delights in his wit, is accustomed to dole out to 
him. But it is a Robin Goodfellow nevertheless, a 
perfect Puck, that loves nothing on earth so well as 
mischief. Perhaps the horse may be the safer con- 
ductor of the two. 

The avenue i§ quite alive to-day. Old women are 
picking up twigs and acorns, and pigs of all sizes doing 
their utmost to spare them the latter part of the trou- 
ble; boys and girls groping for beech-nuts under 
yonder clump ; and a group of younger elves collect- 
ing as many dead leaves a^ they can find to feed the 
bonfire which is smoking away so briskly amongst the 
trees, — a sort of rehearsal of the grand bonfire nine 
days hence ; of the loyal conflagration of the arch, 
traitor Guy Vaux, which is annually solemnised in the 
avenue, accompanied with as much of squibbery and 
crackery as our boys can beg or borrow — not to say 
steal. Ben Kirby is a great man on the fifth of Novem- 
ber. All the savings of a month, the hoarded half- 
pence, the new farthings, the very luck-penny, go off 
m /www? on that night. For my part I hke this day- 
light mockery better. There is no gunpowder— odious 



THE VISIT. 

( gunpowder ! no noise but the merry shouts of the 
small fry, so shrill and happy, and the cawing of the 
rooks, who are wheeling in large circles overhead, and 
wondering what is going forward in their territory — 
seeming in their loud clamour to ask what that light 
smoke may mean that curls so prettily amongst their 
old oaks, towering as if to meet the clouds. There is 
something very intelligent in the ways of that black 
people the rooks, particularly in their wonder. I sup- 
pose it results from their numbers and their unity of 
purpose, a sort of collective and corporate wisdom. 
Yet geese congregate also ; and geese never by any 
chance look wise. But then geese are a domestic 
fowl ; we have spoiled them ; and rooks are free 
commoners of nature, who use the habitations we 
provide for them, tenant our groves and our avenues, 
and never dream of becoming our subjects. 

What a labyrinth of a road this is ! I do think 
there are four turnings in the short half-mile between 
the avenue and the mill. And what a pity, as my 
companion observes— not that our good and jolly mil- 
ler, the very representative of the old English yeo- 
manry, should be so rich, but that one consequence of 
his riches should be the puUing-down of the prettiest 
old mill that ever looked at itself in the Loddon, with 
the picturesque low-browed irregular cottage, which 
stood with its light-pointed roof, its clustered chim- 



^64 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

neys, and its ever-open door, looking like the real 
abode of comfort and hospitality, to build this huge, 
staring, frightful, red-brick mill, as ugly as a manu- 
factory, and this great square house, ugly and red to 
match, just behind. The old building always used to 
remind me of Woollett's beautiful engraving of a 
scene in the Maid of the Mill. It will be long before 
any artist will make a drawing of this. Only think 
of this redness in a picture ! this boiled lobster of a 
house ! FalstafF's description of Bardolph's nose 
would look pale in the comparison. 

Here is that monstrous machine of a tilted waggon, 
with its load of flour, and its four fat horses. I won-? 
der whether our horse will have the decency to get 
out of the way. If he does not, I am sure we cannot 
make him ; and that enormous ship upon wheels, that 
ark on dry land, would roll over us like the car of 
Jaggernaut* Really — Oh no ! there is no danger now. 
I should have remembered that it is my friend Samuel 
Long who drives the milj-team, He will take care of 
us. " Thank you, Saniuel !" And Samuel has put us 
on our way, steered us safely past his waggon, escorted 
us over the bridge ; and now, having seen us through 
our immediate difficulties, has parted from us with a 
very civil bow and good-humoured smile, as one who 
is always civil and good-humoured, but with a certain 
Iriumphant masterful look in his eyes, which I |iav? 



THE VISIT. 



265^ 



noted in men, even the best of them, when a woman 
gets into straits by attempting manly employments. 
He has done us great good though, and may be al- 
lowed his little feeling of superiority. The parting 
salute he bestowed on our steed, in the shape of an 
astounding crack of his huge whip, has put that re- 
fractory animal on his mettle. On we go fast ! past 
the glazier's pretty house, with its porch and its filberd 
walk ; along the narrow lane bordered with elms, 
whose fallen leaves have made the road one yellow ; 
past that little farm-house with the horse-chesnut trees 
before, glowing like oranges ; past the white-washed 
school on the other side, gay with October roses ; 
past the park, and the lodge, and the mansion, where 
once dwelt the great earl of Clarendon ; — and now the 
rascal has begim to discover that Samuel Long and 
his whip are a mile off, and that his mistress is driving 
him, and he slackens his pace accordingly. Perhaps 
he feels the beauty of the road just here, and goes 
slowly to enjoy it. Very beautiful it certainly is. The 
park paling forms the boundary on one side, with fine 
clumps of oak, and deer in all attitudes ; the water, 
tufted with alders, flowing along on the other. Another 
turn, and the water winds away, succeeded by a low 
hedge, and a sweep of green meadows ; whilst the 
park and its paling are replaced by a steep bank, on 
which stands a small, quiet, village ale-house ; and 



266 WALKa IN THE COUNTRY. 

higher up, enbosomed in Wood, is the little country 
church, with its sloping church-yard and its low white 
steeple, peeping out from amongst magnificent yew- 
trees : 

** Huge trunks ! and each particular trunk a growth 
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine 
Up-coiling, and invet'rately convolved." 

Wordsworth. 

No village-church was ever more happily placed. It 
is the very image of the peace and humbleness incul- 
cated within its walls. 

Ah ! here is a higher hill rising before us, almost 
like a mountain. How grandly the view opens as we 
ascend over that wild bank, overgrown with fern, and 
heath, and gorse, and between those tall hollies, glow- 
ing with their coral berries ! What an expanse ! But 
we have little time to gaze at present ; for that piece of 
perversity, our horse, who has walked over so much 
level ground, has now, inspired, I presume, by a desire 
to revisit his stable, taken it into that unaccountable 
noddle of his to trot up this, the very steepest hill in 
the county. Here we are on the top ; and in five 
minutes we have reached the lawn gate, and are in the 
very midst of that beautiful piece of art or nature (I 
do not know to which class it belongs)^ the pleasure- 
ground of F. Hill. Never was the '' prophetic eye of 



THE VISIT. 267 

taste " exerted with more magical skill than in these 
plantations. Thirty years ago this place had no exist- 
ence ; it was a mere undistinguished tract of field and 
meadow and common land ; now it is a mimic forest, 
delighting the eye with the finest combinations of 
trees and shrubs, the rarest effects of form and foliage, 
and bewildering the mind with its green glades, and 
impervious recesses, and apparently interminable ex- 
tent. It is the triumph of landscape gardening, and 
never more beautiful than in this autumn sunset, light- 
ing up the ruddy beech and the spotted sycamore, and 
gilding the shining fir-cones that hang so thickly 
amongst the dark pines. The robins are singing 
around us, as if they too felt the magic of the hour. 
How gracefully the road winds through the leafy 
labyrinth, leading imperceptibly to the more orna- 
mented sweep. Here we are at the door amidst gera- 
niums, and carnations, and jasmines, still in flower. 
Ah ! here is a flower sweeter than all, a bird gayer 
than the robin, the little bird that chirps to the tune of 
** mama ! mama !" the bright-faced fairy, whose tiny 
feet come pattering along, making a merry music, 
mama's own Frances ! And following her guidance, 
here we are in the dear round room time enough to 
catch the last rays of the sun, as they light the noble 
landscape which lies like a panorama around us, lin- 



26S WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

gering longest on that long island of old thorns and 
stunted oaks, the oasis of B, Heath, and then vanish- 
ing in a succession of gorgeous clouds. 

October 28. — Another soft and brilliant morning. 
But the pleasures of to-day must be written in short- 
hand. I have left myself no room for notes of admi- 
ration. 

First we drove about the coppice ; an extensive 
wood of oak, and elm, and beech, chiefly the former, 
which adjoins the park paling of F. Hill, of which de- 
mesne, indeed, it forms one of the most delightful 
parts. The roads through the coppice are studiously 
wild, so that they have the appearance of mere cart- 
tracts : and the manner in which the ground is tum- 
bled about, the steep declivities, the sunny slopes, the 
sudden swells and falls, now a close narrow valley, then a 
sharp ascent to an eminence, commanding an immense 
extent of prospect, have a striking air of natural 
beauty, developed and heightened by the perfection of 
art. All this, indeed, was familiar to me ; the colour- 
ing only was new. I had been there in early spring, 
when the fragrant palms were on the willow, and the 
yellow tassels on the hazel, and every twig was swell- 
ing with renewed life ; and I had been there again and 
again in the green leafiness of midsummer ; but never 
as now, when the dark verdure of the fir-plantations, 



THE VISIT. ^69 

hanging over the picturesque and unequal paling, 
partly covered with moss and ivy, contrasts so remark- 
ably with the shining orange-leaves of the beech, 
already half fallen, the pale yellow of the scattering 
elm, the deeper and richer tints of the oak, and the 
glossy stems of the " lady of the woods," the delicate 
weeping birch. The underwood is no less picturesque. 
The red-spotted leaves, and redder berries of the old 
thorns, the scarlet festoons of the bramble, the tall 
fern of every hue, seem to vie with the brilliant mo- 
saic of the ground, now covered with dead leaves, and 
strewn with fir-cones, now, where a little glade inter- 
venes, gay with various mosses and splendid fungi. 
How beautiful is this coppice to-day ! especially where 
the little spring, as clear as crystal, comes bubbling 
out from the " old fantastic " beech root, and trickles 
over the grass, bright and silent as the dew in a May 
morning. The wood pigeons (who are just returned 
from their summer migration, and are cropping the ivy 
berries) add their low cooings, the very note of love, 
to the slight fluttering of the fallen leaves in the quiet 
air, giving a voice to the sunshine and the beauty. 
This coppice is a place to live and die in. But we 
must go. And how fine is the ascent which leads us 
again into the world, past those cottages hidden as in 
a pit, and by tliat hanging orchard and that rough 



£70 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

heathy bank ! The scenery in this one spot has a wild- 
ness, an abruptness of rise and fall, rare in any part 
of England^ rare above all in this rich and lovely 
but monotonous county. It is Switzerland in minia- 
ture. 

And now we cross the hill to pay a morning visit to 
the family at the great house, — another fine place, 
commanding another fine sweep of country. The 
park, studded with old trees, and sinking gently into a 
valley, rich in wood and water, is in the best style of 
ornamented landscape, though more according to the 
common routine of gentlemen's seats than the singularly 
original place which we have just left. There is, how- 
ever, one distinctive beauty in the grounds of the great 
house ; — the magnificent firs which shade the terraces 
and surround the sweep, giving out in summer odours 
really Sabsean, and now in this low autumn sun pro- 
ducing an effect almost magical, as the huge red 
trunks, garlanded with ivy, stand out from the deep 
shadows like an army of giants. In-doors — Oh I must 
not take ray readers in-doors, or we shall never get away ! 
— In-doors the sun-shine is brighter still ; for there, 
in a lofty lightsome room, sits a damsel fair and arch 
and piqitante, one whom Titian or Velasquez should be 
born again to paint, leaning over an instrument * as 

* The dital harp. 

7 



THE VISIT. ^71 

sparkling and fanciful as herself, singing pretty French 
romances, and Scotish Jacobite songs, and all sorts of 
graceful and airy drolleries picked up I know not 
where — an English improvvisatrice ! a gayer Annot 
Lyle ! whilst her sister, of a higher order of beauty, 
and with an earnest kindness in her smile that deepens 
its power, lends to the piano, as her father to the 
violin, an expression, a sensibility, a spirit, an elo- 
quence, almost human— almost divine ! Oh to hear 
these two instruments accompanying my dear com- 
panion (I forgot to say that she is a singer worthy to 
be so accompanied) in Haydn's exquisite canzonet, 
" She never told her love," — to hear her voice, with 
all its power, its sweetness, its gush of sound, so sus- 
tained and assisted by modulations that rivalled its in- 
tensity of expression ; to hear at once such poetry, 
such music, such execution, is a pleasure never to be 
forgotten, or mixed with meaner things. I seem to 
hear it still. 



As in the bursting spring time o'er the eye 
Of one ^ho haunts the fields fair visions creep 
Beneath the closed lids (afore dull sleep 

Dims the quick fancy) of sweet flowers that lie 

On grassy banks, oxslip of orient dye. 
And palest primrose and blue violet. 
All in their fresh and dewy beauty set, 

Pictur'd Avithin the sense, and will not fly : 



^72 WALKS IN THE COUNTRY. 

So ia mine ear resounds and lives again 
One mingled melody, — a voice, a pair 
Of instruments most voice-like ! Of the air 
Rather than of the earth seems that high strain, 
A spirit's song, and worthy of the train 

That sooth'd old Prospero with music rare. 



A PARTING GLANCE AT OUR 
VILLAGE. 



It is now eighteen months since our village first sat for 
its picture, and I cannot say farewell to my courteous 
readers, without giving them some little intelligence of 
our goings on, a sort of parting glance at us and our 
condition. In outward appearance it hath, I suppose, 
undergone less alteration than any place of its inches 
in the kingdom. There it stands, the same long 
straggling street of pretty cottages, divided by pretty 
gardens, wholly unchanged in size or appearance, un* 
increased and undiminished by a single brick. To be 
sure, yesterday evening a slight misfortune happened to 
our goodly tenement, occasioned by the unlucky dili- 
gence mentioned in my first notice, which, under the 
conduct of a sleepy coachman, and a restive horse, con- 
trived to knock down and demolish the wall of our 
court, and fairly to drive through the front garden, 
thereby destroying sundry curious stocks, carnations, 
and geraniums. It is a mercy that the unruly steed 

T 



S74 A PARTING GLANCE 

was content with battering the wall ; for the messuage 
itself would come about our ears at the touch of a 
finger, and really there is one little end-parlour, an 
after-thought of the original builder, which stands so 
temptingly in the way, that I wonder the sagacious 
quadruped missed it. There was quite din enough 
without that addition. The three insides (ladies) 
squalling from the interior of that commodious vehi- 
cle ; the outsides (gentlemen) swearing on the roof ; 
the coachman, still half asleep, but unconsciously blow- 
ing his horn ; we in the house screaming and scolding ; 
the passers-by shouting and hallooing ; and May, who 
little brooked such an invasion of her territories, 
barking in her tremendous lion-note, and putting down 
the other noises like a clap of thunder. But passen- 
gers, coachman, horses, and spectators, all righted at 
last ; and there is no harm done but to my flowers 
and to the wall. May, however, stands bewailing the 
ruins, for that low wall was her favourite haunt ; she 
used to parade backwards and forwards on the top of 
it, as if to show herself, just after the manner of a 
peacock on the top of a house ; and would sit or lie 
for hours on the corner next the gate, basking in the 
suns^hine like a marble statue. Really she has quite 
the air of one who laments the destruction of personal 
property; but the wall is to be rebuilt to-morrow, 
with old weather-stained bricks— no patchwork ! and 



AT OUR VILLAGE. 275 

exactly in the same form ; May herself will not find 
the difference ; so that in the way of alteration this 
little misfortune will pass for nothing. Neither have 
we any improvements worth calling such. Except 
that the wheeler's green door hath been retouched, 
out of the same pot (as I judge from the tint) with 
which he furbished up our new-old pony-chaise ; that 
the shop-window of our neighbour, the universal 
dealer, hath been beautified, and his name and calling 
splendidly set forth in yellow letters on a black 
ground ; and that our landlord of the Rose hath 
hoisted a new sign of unparalleled splendour ;" one side 
consisting of a full-faced damask rose, of the size and 
hue of a piony, the other of a maiden-blush in profile, 
which looks exactly like a carnation, so that both 
flowers are considerably indebted to the modesty of 
the ** out-of-door artist," who has warily written The 
Rose under each ; — except these trifling ornaments, 
which nothing but the jealous eye of a lover could de- 
tect, the dear place is altogether unchanged. 

The only real improvement with which we have 
been visited for our sins — (I hate all innovation, whe- 
ther for better or worse, as if I were a furious Tory, 
or a woman of three-score and ten)— the only mis- 
fortune of that sort which has befallen us, is under 
foot. The road has been adjusted on the plan of Mr. 
Mac-Adam ; and a tremendous operation it is. I do 

T 2 



^76 A PARTING GLANCE 

not know what good may ensue ; but for the last six 
months, some part or other of the highway has been 
impassable for any feet, except such as are shod by 
the blacksmith ; and even the four-footed people who 
wear iron shoes make wry faces, poor things ! at those 
stones, enemies to man and beast. However, the busi- 
ness is nearly done now ; we are covered with sharp 
flints every inch of us, except a '' bad step" up the 
hill, which, indeed, looks like a bit cut out of the 
deserts of Arabia, fitter for camels and caravans than 
for Christian horses and coaches ; a point which wa& 
acknowledged even by otyr surveyor, a portly gentle- 
man, who, in a smart gig drawn by a prancing steed, 
was kicking up a prodigious dust at that very mo- 
ment. He and I ought to be great enemies ; for, 
besides the Mac-Adamite enormity of the stony road, 
he hath actually been guilty of tree-murder, having 
been an accessory before the fact in the death of three 
limes along the rope-walk — dear sweet innocent limes, 
that did no harm on earth except shading the path ! I 
never should have forgiven that offence, had not their 
removal, by opening a beautiful view from the village 
up the hill, reconciled even my tree-loving eye to their 
abstraction. And, to say the truth, though we have 
had twenty little squabbles, there is no bearing malice 
with our surveyor ; he is so civil and good-humored, 
has such a bustling and happy self-importance, such 



AT OUR VILLAGE. 277 

an honest earnestness in his vocation (which is gra- 
tuitous by the by), and such an intense conviction that 
the state of the turnpike-road, between B. and K., is 
the principal affair of this life, that I would not unde- 
ceive him for more worlds than one ever has to give. 
How often have I seen him on a cold winter morn- 
ing, with a face all frost and business, great-coated up 
to the eyes, driving from post to post, from one gang 
of labourers to another, praising, scolding, ordering, 
cheated, laughed at, and liked by them all ! Well, 
when once the hill is finished, we shall have done with 
him for ever, as he used to tell me by way of conso- 
lation, when I shook my head at him, as he went jolt- 
ing along over his dear new roads, at the imminent 
risk of his springs and his bones ; we shall see no 
more of him ; for the Mac- Adam ways are warranted 
not to wear out. So be it ; I never wish to see a road- 
mender again. 

But if the form of outward things be all unchanged 
around us, if the dwellings of man remain the same to 
the sight and the touch, the little world within hath 
undergone its usual mutations ;— the hive is the same, 
but of the bees some are dead and some are flown 
away, and some that we left babes and sucklings, in- 
sects in the shell, are already putting forth their young 
wings. Children in our village really sprout up like 
mushrooms ; the air is so promotive of growth, that 



2118 A PARTING GLANCE 

the rogues spring into men and women, as if touched by 
Harlequin's wand, and are quite offended if one hap- 
pens to say or do any thing which has a reference to 
their previous condition. My father grievously af- 
fronted Sally L., only yesterday, by bestowing upon her 
a great lump of gingerbread, with which he had stuffed 
his pockets at a fair. She immediately, as she said, 
gave it to " the children." Now Sally cannot be 
above twelve to my certain knowledge, though taller 
than I am. Lizzy herself is growing womanly. I 
actually caught that little lady stuck on a chest of 
drawers, contemplating herself in the glass, and striv- 
ing with all her might to gather the rich curls that 
hang about her neck, and turn them under a comb. 
Well ! If Sally and Lizzy live to be old maids, they 
may probably make the amende honorable to time, 
and wish to be thought young again. In the mean- 
while, shall we walk up the street ? 

The first cottage is that of Mr. H. the patriot, the 
illuminator, the independent and sturdy yet friendly 
member of our little state, who, stout and comely, with 
a handsome chaise- cart, a strong mare, and a neat 
garden, might have passed for a portrait of that en- 
viable class of Englishmen, who, after a youth of 
frugal industry, sit down in some retired place to 
" live upon their means." He and his wife seemed 
the happest couple on earth ; except a little too much 



AT OUR VILLAGE. ^79 

leisure, I never suspected that they had one trouble 
or one care. But Care, the witch, will come every 
where, even to that happiest station, and this prettiest 
place. She came in one of her most terrific forms — 
blindness — or (which is perhaps still m.ore tremendous) 
the faint glimmering light and gradual darkness which 
precede the total eclipse. For a long time we had 
missed the pleasant bustling officiousness, the little 
services, the voluntary tasks, which our good neigh- 
bour loved so well. Fruit trees were blighted, and 
escaped his grand specific, fumigation ; wasps multi- 
plied, and their nests remain untraced ; the cheerful 
modest knock with which, just at the very hour when 
he knew it could be spared, he presented himself to 
ask for the newspaper, was heard no more ; he no 
longer hung over his gate to way-lay passengers, and 
entice them into chat ; at last he even left off driving 
his little chaise, and was only seen moping up and 
down the garden- walk, or stealing gropingly from the 
wood-pile to the house. He evidently shunned con- 
versation or questions, forbade his wife to tell what 
ailed him, and even when he put a green shade over 
his darkened eyes, fled from human sympathy with a 
stern pride that seemed almost ashamed of the hum- 
bling infirmity. That strange (but to a vigorous and 
healthy man perhaps natural) feeling soon softened. 
The disease increased hourly, and he became depen* 



280 A PARTING GLANCE 

dent on his excellent wife fpr every comfort and re- 
lief. She had many willing assistants in her labour 
of love ; all his neighbours strove to return, according 
to their several means, the kindness which all had 
received from him in some shape or other. The 
country boys, to whose service he had devoted so 
much time, in shaping bats, constructing bows and 
arrows, and other quips and trickeries of the same 
nature, vied with each other in performing little offices 
about the yard and stable ; and John Evans, the 
half-witted gardener, to whom he had been a constant 
friend, repaid his goodness by the most unwearied 
attention. Gratitude even seemed to sharpen poor 
John's perceptions and faculties. There is an old man 
in our parish work-house, who occasionally walks 
through the street, led by a little boy holding the end 
of a long stick. The idea of this man, who had lived 
in utter blindness for thirty years, was always sin- 
gularly distressing to Mr. H. I shall never forget 
the address with which our simple gardener used to 
try to divert his attention from this miserable fellow- 
sufferer. He would get between them to prevent the 
possibility of recognition by the dim and uncertain 
vision ; would talk loudly to drown the peculiar 
noise, the sort of duet of feet, caused by the quick 
short steps of the child, and the slow irregular tread 
of the old man ; and, if any one ventured to allude to 



AT OUR VILLAGE. 281 

blind Robert, he would turn the conversation with an 
adroitness and acuteness which might put to shame 
the proudest intellect. So passed many months. At 
last Mr. H. was persuaded to consult a celebrated 
oculist, and the result was most comforting. The 
disease was ascertained to be a cataract ; and now 
with the increase of darkness came an increase of 
hope. The film spread, thickened, ripened, speedily 
and healthily ; and to-day the requisite operation has 
been performed with equal skill and success. You may 
still see some of the country boys lingering round the 
gate with looks of strong and wondering interest ; 
poor John is going to and fro, he knows not for what, 
unable to rest a moment ; Mrs. H., too, is walking 
in the garden, shedding tears of thankfulness ; and he 
who came to support their spirit, the stout strong- 
hearted farmer A., seems trembling and overcome. 
The most tranquil person in the house is probably the 
patient : he bore the operation with resolute firmness, 
and he has seen again. Think of the bliss bound up 
in those four words ! He is in darkness now, and 
must remain so for some weeks ; but he has seen, and 
he will see ; and that humble cottage is again a happy 
dwelling. 

Next we come to the shoemaker's abode. All is 
unchanged there, except that its master becomes more 
industrious and more pale-faced, and that his fair 



2S2 A PARTING GLANCE 

daughter is a notable exemplification of the develope- 
ment which I have already noticed amongst our young 
things. But she is in the real transition state, just 
emerging from the chrysalis, and the eighteen months, 
between fourteen and a half and sixteen, would meta- 
morphose a child into a woman all the world over. 
She is still pretty, but not so elegant as when she 
wore frocks and pinafores, and, unconsciously classi- 
cal, parted her long brown locks in the middle of her 
forehead, and twisted them up in a knot behind, giv- 
ing to her finely- shaped head and throat the air of 
a Grecian statue. Then she was stirring all day in 
her small housewifery, or her busy idleness, delving 
and digging in her flower-border, tossing and dandling 
every infant that came within her reach, feeding pigs 
and poultry, playing with May, and prattling with an 
open-hearted frankness to the country lads, who as- 
semble at evening in the shop to enjoy a little gentle 
gossiping ; for be it known to my London readers, 
that the shoemaker's in a country village is now what 
(according to tradition, and the old novels) the bar- 
ber's used to be, the resort of all the male newsmon- 
gers, especially the young. Then she talked to these 
visitors gaily and openly, sang and laughed and ran in 
and out, and took no more thought of a young man 
than of a gosling. Then she was only fourteen. Now 
she wears gowns and aprons,^ — puts her hair in paper, 



AT OUR VILLAGE. 28S 

— has left off singing, talks, —has left off running, 
walks, — nurses the infants with a grave solemn grace, 
— has entirely cut her former playmate Mayflower, 
who tosses her pretty head as much as to say — who 
cares ? — and has nearly renounced all acquaintance 
with the visitors of the shop, who are by no means 
disposed to take matters so quietly. There she stands 
on the threshold, shy and demure, just vouchsafing a 
formal nod or a faint smile as they pass, and, if she in 
her turn be compelled to pass the open door of their 
news-room (for the working apartment is separate 
from the house), edging along as slyly and mincingly 
as if there were no such beings as young men in the 
world. Exquisite coquette ! I think (she is my 
opposite neighbour, and I have a right to watch her 
doings, — the right of retaliation), there is one youth 
particularly distinguished by her non-notice, one whom 
she never will see or speak to, who stands a very fair 
chance to carry her off. He is called Jem Tanner, 
and is a fine lad, with an open ruddy countenance, a 
clear blue eye, and curling hair of that tint which the 
poets are pleased to denominate golden. Though not 
one of our eleven, he was a promising cricketer. We 
have missed him lately on the green at the Sunday- 
evening game, and I find on inquiry that he now fre- 
quents a chapel about a mile off, where he is the best 
male singer, as our nymph of the shoe-shop is incom- 



284 A PARTING GLANCE 

parably the first female. I am not fond of betting ; 
but I would venture the lowest stake of gentUity, a 
silver three-pence, that, before the winter ends, a wed- 
ding will be the result of these weekly meetings at the 
chapel. In the" long dark evenings, when the father 
has enough to do in piloting the mother with conjugal 
gallantry through the dirty lanes, think of the oppor- 
tunity that Jem will have to escort the daughter. A 
little difficulty he may. have to encounter : the lass will 
be coy for a while ; the mother will talk of their youth, 
the father of their finances ; but the marriage, I doubt 
not, will ensue. 

Next in order, on the other side of the street, is the 
blacksmith's house. Change has been busy here in a 
different and more awful form. Our sometime con- 
stable, the tipsiest of parish officers, of blacksmiths and 
of men, is dead. Returning from a revel with a com- 
panion as full of beer as himself, one or the other, or 
both, contrived to overset the cart in a ditch; (the 
living scapegrace is pleased to lay the blame of the 
mishap on the horse, but that is contrary to all proba- 
bility, this respectable quadruped being a water- 
drinker ;) and inward bruises, acting on inflamed blood 
and an impaired constitution, carried him off in a very 
short time, leaving an ailing wife and eight children, 
the eldest of whom is only fourteen years of age. This 
sounds like a very tragical story ; yet, perhaps, be- 



AT OUR VILLAGE. 285 

cause the loss of a drunken husband is not quite so 
great a calamity as the loss of a sober one, the effect of 
this event is not altogether so melancholy as might be 
expected. The widow, when she was a wife, had a 
complaining broken-spirited air, a peevish manner, a 
whining Toice, a dismal countenance, and a person so 
neglected and slovenly, that it was difficult to believe 
that she had once been remarkably handsome. She is 
now quite another woman. The very first Sunday she 
put on her weeds, we all observed how tidy and com- 
fortable she looked, how much her countenance, in 
spite of a decent show of tears, was improved, and how 
completely through all her sighings her tone had lost 
its peevishness. I have never seen her out of spirits or 
out of humour since. She talks and laughs and bustles 
about, managing her journeymen and scolding her 
children as notably as any dame in the parish. The 
very house looks more cheerful ; she has cut down the 
old willow-trees that stood in the court, and let in the 
light ; and now the sun glances brightly from the case- 
ment windows, and plays amidst the vine-leaves and the 
clusters of grapes which cover the walls ; the door is 
newly painted, and shines like the face of its mistress ; 
even the forge has lost half its dinginess. Every 
thing smiles. She indeed talks by fits of " poor 
George," especially when any allusion to her old enemy 
mine host of the Rose brings the deceased to her me- 



^B6 A PARTING GLANCE 

mory ; then she bewails (as is proper) her dear husband 
and her desolate condition ; calls herself a lone widow ; 
sighs over her eight children ; complains of the trou- 
bles of business, and tries to persuade herself and 
others that she is as wretched as a good wife ought to 
be. But this will not do. She is a happier woman than 
she has been any time these fifteen years, and she 
knows it. My dear village-husbands, if you have a 
mind that your wives should be really sorry when you 
die, whether by a fall from a cart or otherwise, keep 
from the alehouse ! 

Next comes the tall thin red house, that ought to 
boast genteeler inmates than its short fat mistress, its 
children, its pigs, and its quantity of noise, happiness, 
and vulgarity. The din is greater than ever. The 
husband, a merry jolly tar, with a voice that sounds as 
if issuing from a speaking trumpet, is returned from a 
voyage to India ; and another little one, a chubby 
roaring boy, has added his lusty cries to the family 
concert. 

This door, blockaded by huge bales of goods, and 
half darkened by that moving mountain, the tilted 
waggon of the S. mill which stands before it, belongs 
to the village shop. Increase has been here too in 
every shape. Within fourteen months two little pretty 
quiet girls have come into the world. Before Fanny 
could well manage to totter across the toad to her good 
1 



AT OUR VILLAGE. 287 

friend the nymph of the shoe- shop, Margaret made her 
appearance ; and poor Fanny, discarded at once from 
the maid's arms and her mother's knee, degraded from 
the rank and privileges of " the bahy," (for at that age 
precedence is strangely reversed,) would have had a 
premature foretaste of the instability of human felicity, 
had she not taken refuge with that best of nurses, a 
fond father. Every thing thrives about the shop, from 
the rosy children to the neat maid and the smart ap- 
prentice. No room now for lodgers, and no need! 
The young mantua-making schoolmistresses, the old 
inmates, are gone ; one of them not very far. She 
grew tired of scolding little boys and girls about thei:^ 
A, B, C, and of being scolded in her turn by their sis- 
ters and mothers about pelisses and gowns ; so she gave 
up both trades almost a year ago, and has been ever 
since our pretty Harriet. I do not think she has ever 
repented of the exchange, though it might not perhaps 
have been made so soon, had not her elder sister, who 
had been long engaged to an attendant at one of the col- 
leges of Oxford, thought herself on the point of mar- 
riage just as our housemaid left us. Poor Betsy ! She 
had shared the fate of many a prouder maiden, wearing 
out her youth in expectation of the promotion that was 
to authorise her union with the man of her heart. Many 
a year had she waited in smiling constancy, fond of 
William in no common measure, and proud of him, as 



288 A PARTING GLAN-CE 

well she might be ; for, when the vacation so far les- 
sened his duties as to render a short absence practica- 
ble, and he stole up here for a few days to enjoy her 
company, it was difficult to distinguish him in air and 
manner, as he sauntered about in elegant indolence 
with his fishing-rod and his flute, from the young 
Oxonians his masters. At last promotion came ; and 
Betsy, apprised of it by an affectionate and congratu- 
latory letter from his sister, prepared her wedding- 
clothes, and looked hourly for the bridegroom. No 
bridegroom came. A second letter announced, with 
regret and indignation, that William had made another 
choice, and was to be married early in the ensuing 
month. Poor Betsy ! We were alarmed for her health, 
almost for her life. She wept incessantly, took no food, 
wandered recklessly about from morning till night, lost 
her natural rest, her flesh, her colour ; and in less than 
a week she was so altered, that no one would have 
known her. Consolation and remonstrance were alike 
rejected^ till at last Harriet happened to strike the right 
chord by telling her that " she wondered at her want 
of spirit/' This was touching her on the point of ho- 
nour ; she had always been remarkably high-spirited, 
and could as little brook the imputation as a soldier or 
a gentleman. This lucky suggestion gave an immediate 
turn to her feelings ; anger and scorn succeeded to 
grief; she wiped her eyes, " hemmed away a sigh," 



AT OUR VILLAGE. 289 

and began to scold most manfully. She did still better. 
She recalled an old admirer, who in spite of repeated 
rejections had remained constant in his attachment, and 
made such good speed, that she was actually marriied 
the day before her faithless lover, and is now the happy 
wife of a very respectable tradesman. 

Ah ! the in-and-out cottage ! the dear, dear home ! 
No weddings there ! No changes ! except that the 
white kitten, who sits purring at the window under the 
great myrtle, has succeeded to his lamented grand- 
father, our beautiful Persian cat, I cannot find one al- 
teration to talk about. The wall of the court indeed-— 
but that will be mended to-morrow. 

Here is the new sign, the well-frequented Rose inn ! 
Plenty of changes there ! Our landlord is always im- 
proving, if it be only a pig-sty or a watering-trough — 
plenty of changes and one splendid wedding. Miss 
Phoebe is married, not to her old loVer the recruiting 
sergeant (for he had one wife already,' probably more,) 
but to a patten-maker, as errant a dandy as ever wore 
mustachios. How Phoebe could " abase her eyes" from 
the stately sergeant to this youth, half a foot shorter 
than herself, whose " waist would go into any alder- 
man's thumb-ring," might, if the final choice of a co- 
quette had ever been matter of wonder, have occasioned 
some speculation. But our patten-maker is a man of 
spirit; and the wedding was of extraordinary splen- 

u 



290 A PARTING GLANCE 

dour. Three gigs, each containing four persons, graced 
the procession, beside numerous carts and innumerable 
pedestrians. The bride was equipped in muslin and 
satin, and really looked very pretty with her black 
sparkling eyes, her clear brown complexion, her blushes 
and her smiles ; the bride-maidens were only less smart 
than the bride ; and the bridegroom was " point device 
in. his accoutrements," and as munificent as a nabob. 
Cake flew about the village ; plum-puddings were 
abundant ; and strong beer, aye, even mine host's best 
double X, was profusely distributed. There was all 
manner of eating and drinking, with singing, fiddling, 
and dancing between ; and in the evening, to crown 
all, there was Mr. Moon the conjuror. Think of that 
stroke of good fortune ! — Mr. Moon, the very pearl of 
all conjurors, who had the honour of puzzling and de- 
lighting their late Majesties with his " wonderful and 
pleasing exhibition of Thaumaturgics, Tachygraphy, 
mathematical operations, and magical deceptions," hap- 
pened to arrive about an hour before dinner, and com- 
menced his ingenious deceptions very unintentionally at 
our house. Calling to apply for permission to perform 
in the village, being equipped in a gay scarlet coat, and 
having something smart and sportsman-like in his ap- 
pearance, he was announced by Harriet as one of the 
gentlemen of the C. Hunt, and taken (^i^taken 1 should 
have said) by the whole family fdr a certain captain 



AT OUR VILL^IGE. ^91 

newly arrived in the neighbourhood. That misunder- 
standing, which must, I think, have retaliated on Mr. 
M|fbn a little of the puzzlement that he inflicts on 
others, vanished of course at the production of his bill 
of fare ; and the requested permission was instantly 
given. Never could he have arrived in a happier hour ! 
Never were spectators more gratified or more scared. 
All the tricks prospered. The cock crew after his head 
was cut off; and half-crowns and sovereigns flew about 
as if winged ; the very wedding-ring could not escape 
Mr. Moon's incantations. We heard of nothing else for 
a week. From the bridegroom, un esprit fort, who de- 
fied all manner of conjuration and diablerie, down to 
my Lizzy, whose boundless faith swallows the Arabian 
Tales, all believed and trembled. So thoroughly were 
men, women, and children, impressed with the idea of 
the worthy conjuror's dealings with the devil, that, 
when he had occasion to go to B., not a soul would 
give him a cast, from pure awe ; and if it had not been 
for our pony-chaise, poor Mr. Moon must have walked. 
I hope he is really a prophet ; for he foretold all hap- 
piness to the new-married pair. 

So this pretty white house with the lime-trees before 
it, which has been under repair for these three years, is 
on the point of being finished. The vicar has taken it, 
as the vicarage-house is not yet fit for his reception. 
He has sent before him a neat modest maid-servant^ 
3 



292 A PARTING GLANCE, &C. 

whose respectable appearance gives a character to heir 
master and mistress, — a hamper full of Hower-roolSj 
sundry boxes of books, a piano-forte, and some simple 
and^. useful furniture. Well, we shall certainly have 
neighbours, and I have a presentiment that we shall 
find friends. 

Lizzy, you may now come along with me round the 
corner and up the lane, just to the end of the wheeler's 
shop, and then we shall go home ; it is high time^ 
What is this qffiche in the parlour window ? " Apart- 
ments to let — inquire within.'' These are certainly the 
curate's lodgings — is he going away ? Oh I suppose 
the new vicar will do his own duty — yet, however well 
he may do it, rich and poor will regret the departure of 
Mr. B. Well, I hope that he may soon get a good 
living. " Lodgings to let " — who ever thought of see- 
ing such a placard hereabout ? The lodgings, indeed, 
are very convenient for a single gentleman, " a man 
and his wife, or two sisters," as the newspapers say- 
comfortable apartments, neat and tasty withal, with the 
addition of very civil treatment from the host and 
hostess. Lodgings to let in our village ! 

THE END. 



LONDON: 

PRINTED BY R. GIXBERT, ST. JOHN's SQUARE. 



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